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Bobcats vs Blazers Preview: 3-on-3 with PRS

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Portland Trail Blazers

What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Charlotte 7-8 96.9 (27) 103.2 (20) 95.7 (6)
Portland 7-10 101.4 (13) 105.7 (26) 93.9 (22)

Previous Meetings:

Charlotte: Gerald Henderson (QUESTIONABLE)

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Trail Blazers
PG Kemba Walker Damian Lillard
SG Ramon Sessions Wesley Matthews
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Nicolas Batum
PF Byron Mullens LaMarcus Aldridge
C Brendan Haywood J.J. Hickson
6th Man Jeffery Taylor Meyers Leonard

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network The Bobcats may finally get back their starting SG tonight, as Gerald Henderson has been upgraded to day-to-day and will make his return either tonight or Wednesday. Hendo has been out 4 weeks with a left foot sprain. It remains to be seen how Coach Dunlap will implement Henderson back into the lineup with Jeffery Taylor’s stellar play in his absence and Ben Gordon’s instant offense off the bench. Hendo’s return will allow the Bobcats to go with smaller lineups and get more scorers in the game, so don’t be surprised if Dunlap starts playing Henderson at SF in many lineups. Tonight, Charlotte welcomes in a Portland team that has certainly had it’s struggles early this season, but are coming off an OT win in Cleveland on Saturday night. The Blazers are led by the trio of Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, who account for an average of 57 PPG. Sean Highkin of TrueHoop blog ‘Portland Roundball Society’ stops by to pitch in to the debate.

1- STATS: Charlotte and Portland actually have quite a few similarities. They’re both below average defensively and struggle on the glass consistently. The most profound difference is in the offensive styles. Charlotte uses 95.7 (6th) possessions/game, but only post an offensive efficiency of 96.9 (27th). Portland uses less possessions at 93.9/game (22nd), but is much more efficient scoring points with an offensive efficiency of 101.4 (13th). Evaluate the two styles and tell us what will have to give in this match-up tonight.

Spencer: Portland has LaMarcus Aldridge who can score many different ways, but the Bobcats will have to make it a point to force him to operate from as far away from the basket as possible tonight. This will give Charlotte the advantage on the boards and if they win on the glass tonight then I believe they’ll win the game. The Bobcats already create more opportunities to score for themselves, per game, than Portland does. Not to mention Portland is a team that you can score on without too much difficulty. As long as Charlotte wins the rebounding category tonight, I’m trusting that they can find enough ways to score the ball at home.

Brett: The Bobcats style is one of necessity, as they don’t have a consistent low post threat to draw double teams and create easy shots, so the Cats push the pace when given the chance to get to the rim.  For Portland, it almost seems like an offensive philosophy based on inertia – they’ve been a grind it out offense for years, and with LaMarcus Aldridge able to score in a variety of ways in and around the paint, they don’t need to change just yet. For the Bobcats to win, it would help if their style of play rubbed off on the Blazers for a night, as turnovers and easy scores are needed for the Bobcats to get through spells of stagnant halfcourt offense.

Greg: Looking over the stats at NBA.com reveals just how differently these teams score. Portland relies heavily on the three-ball, with 25.3% of their points coming from long range. That’s the fifth-most of any team in the league. Charlotte, meanwhile, generates a large portion of their scoring at the free-throw line. Only Oklahoma City and the Minnesota Timberwolves create a higher percentage of their offense at the stripe. These respective styles might give the Bobcats an edge: Charlotte has slowly developed into an average team at defending the three-pointer, holding teams to 36 percent shooting. Portland, on the other hand, is prone to fouling, ranking 24th in opponent FT/FGA.

Sean: The thing to watch tonight, stats-wise, is defense. You said they’re “both below average,” and I’m not sure that’s quite fair to the Bobcats in this matchup. Mike Dunlap has done a terrific job instilling a mentality in this Bobcats team of constant pressure on the defensive end. Efficiency-wise, they’re not great, allowing 103.2 points per 100 possessions. That’s about as high as you can expect them to achieve given the in-progress nature of the roster, and it won’t get it done against elite teams. But Portland’s defense is downright awful. They rank 26th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews do a solid job protecting the perimeter, but anytime opponents get into the paint, it’s a disaster. Look for MKG to attack the rim a lot tonight.

2- TWO QUESTIONS: QCH- Would you swap Kemba for Lillard in Charlotte today, or are you still a believer in Walker’s upside over super rookie Lillard?

Sean, tell us what has led Lillard to his stellar 18.8 PPG & 6.2 APG per game average only 17 games into his NBA career.

Spencer: I have to take Lillard here. What he’s done so far this season have been nothing short of amazing. Lillard is going to be more of all-around player than Kemba is, and that’s mainly because of his size. At 6’3, it simply means that he’s more versatile than Kemba is on both ends of the floor. Obviously, Kemba has the speed and quickness advantage, but it’s not enough to overcome what Lillard has shown the NBA just 17 games into his career.

Brett: Sorry, Kemba, but see you later.  I wasn’t a fan of drafting Augustin over Brook Lopez, and I wasn’t thrilled when the Bobcats drafted another small point guard again in Kemba.  Lillard provides size and more efficient scoring  (even in college).  One thing to note is that Kemba is only 2 months older, so despite being a rookie, Lillard doesn’t have the usual allure of immature potential versus the “veteran” (quoted, since Kemba’s only in year 2).

Greg: Oof. This is a tough one. I’m excited as anyone about Kemba’s future, but Lillard’s ability from long-range probably puts him over the top. Not only is three-point shooting always an asset, it would particularly help this Bobcats team. If Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson are in the organization’s long-term plans, they’ll need another shooter in the backcourt to help space things out. That’s not to say that Kemba couldn’t eventually develop that shot, but Lillard is already shooting 41 percent on over six attempts a game (!).

Sean: His confidence, mainly. Concerns about his unreadiness to play against NBA competition coming out of a school like Weber State have been completely unfounded so far. It’s been pretty amazing to watch how little he gets rattled. He’s great at reading passing angles, and generally can find teammates in spots where they can get a good look. He’s only shooting 43 percent from the field, but the shots he’s taking are mostly good ones—as with any scorer, there have just been nights when they don’t fall. Strangely, his long-range shooting hasn’t really fallen victim to his recent slump. He’s still shooting 41 percent from three-point range. The most encouraging thing I’ve seen from him so far is that he isn’t afraid to keep shooting even if he’s not hitting on a given night.

3- PICK IT: This seems like a very winnable game for the Bobcats at home tonight, but the Blazers are coming off a big road win in Cleveland on Saturday night and LaMarcus Aldridge will have Byron Mullens guarding him for most the night. That would equate to an advantage for Portland’s all-star forward. Bobcats or Blazers? Why?

Spencer: Bobcats. The 3-game losing streak ends tonight. I really like the Cats to control the boards tonight and believe Haywood and Biyombo can really play monsters in the paint in this game. Unless the Blazers catch fire from behind the arc tonight, I believe Charlotte gets a lot more scoring opportunities than their opponent and capitalizes on enough of them to come out the victor.

Brett: I’ll take the home team.  The Blazers are in rebuilding mode at this point, like the Bobcats, and have some pieces to start the turnaround (or to swap and further the effort), but it’s not exactly playoff team at this point, with J.J. Hickson, Wes Matthews, and Batum to go along the star attractions in Lillard and Aldridge.  LaMarcus is likely to have a good game tonight, matched up against Byron, but the more important battle may be on the perimeter, as the Blazers are another team that will dwarf the Bobcats when they go to their 3-guard lineup.  If Batum and Matthews can make 3s tonight (they’re both shooting in the high 30s), it could be a tough one for Charlotte.

Greg: Bobcats. After praising Lillard in my last answer, it’s only fair to point out some of his flaws, too. As Zach Lowe at Grantland pointed out last week, the rookie has struggled on defense. That bodes well for the Bobcats; in their wins this year, Kemba has scored 20.7 points, compared to 12.4 points in their losses. If Kemba can have an efficient game, and Ramon Sessions can chip in some points off the bench, they’ll have a great chance at taking this one.

Sean: I think Portland takes this one. The important thing about the Cleveland game isn’t just that they pulled out a win, but that Lillard and Batum had bounce-back games after struggling mightily for most of this road trip. They’ve got their confidence back, and they’ll be looking to build on that win so this road trip isn’t a complete disaster. With Aldridge, not only does he have Mullens guarding him, but he’s also started finally attacking the paint in the last two games, where he’s always been devastatingly effective. If the Bobcats want to win, they have to keep him away from the low post and make him settle for long twos, and I don’t see Mullens being able to do that.