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Game #1: Bobcats @ Rockets 3-on-3 Preview

Who: Houston Rockets vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Rockets Home Game

When: 8:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Toyota Center, Houston, TX

Previous Meetings:
Opening game of season, so nothing here.

Houston: Terrence Jones (Day-to-day)
Charlotte: Al Jefferson (Questionable)

Starting Lineups

Rockets Bobcats
PG Patrick Beverley Kemba Walker
SG James Harden Gerald Henderson
SF Chandler Parsons Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Dwight Howard Cody Zeller
C Omer Asik Al Jefferson
6th Man Jeremy Lin Ramon Sessions

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network In the final season of the Charlotte Bobcats as we know them, there’s a refreshing feeling around the talent on this roster and they’ll debut in Houston tonight. There’s no denying that expectations for this group should still definitely be realistic and the playoffs are a stretch, but there’s excitement – we haven’t had that feeling with this franchise in awhile.

Tonight, Charlotte gets a squad that could very well win the western conference. Dwight Howard and James Harden look to imprint their plans for the season starting tonight. Can the Bobcats provide an early season speed bump for the high powered Rockets?

1- STATS: What will be the key statistical category tonight for the Bobcats other than trying to outscore the opponent?

Spencer Percy:I do believe that 3-point shooting is going to be very important, as Greg has already touched on. To add to that, though, I’d point out that the Bobcats really have to limit Houston’s offensive rebounds tonight – second chances for the Rockets with this kind of offensive firepower would bury Charlotte.

Greg Pietras: Three-point attempts. Last year’s Bobcats allowed the most three-pointers in the league, and that was a big factor in their record. Since their own long-range shooting is so poor, it’s hard for them to make up the difference unless they’re having a very efficient night in other areas. If the pre-season is any indication, this year could be more of the same: opponents averaged 23.4 three-point attempts over eight preseason games, which is right in line with the 22.5 attempts per game Charlotte conceded in 2011-12.

Houston is poised to take advantage, as they took the second-most three-pointers last year and should be high in the rankings again this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Charlotte’s defense can adjust.

Dakota Schmidt: Rebounds- One of the main goals for Charlotte during this offseason was to improve the overall face of the front-court. Of course with the additions of Jefferson and Zeller, it would appear that slowly become more of a strength than that same terrifying weakness that it has been since the team’s last playoff appearance. The first test for this new core will be against the new-look Houston Rockets that’s lead by Dwight Howard who’s going to be on a mission to prove himself as the league’s best center. Given their overall defensive reputations, you presume it would be practically impossible for Charlotte to contain the powerful Dwight Howard who might even be more of a force after working with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason. With that said, I just want to see how this front-court can do on the boards when they’re matched up against the likes of the aforementioned Howard, Omer Asik or Donatas Motiejunas.

2- SCHEME: What is the best plan of attack for the Bobcats to contain Dwight Howard and how should they approach pick-and-roll situations defensively tonight?

Spencer:2- D12 will be the pick-and-pop man on most of Houston’s PnR sequences tonight. I have a feeling that Charlotte is very skeptical about having Jefferson overwhelmed in this kind of defensive coverage with the state of his ankle, so we should see plenty of Biz vs. D12 (anyone remember this gem). Biyombo will have to carry the majority of PnR coverage and also be a huge factor for the Bobcats on the glass – he’s averaged over 10 RPG in the preseason, so let’s hope that can continue. Long story short, Biz is the catalyst on the defensive end for Charlotte tonight – he’s got to be stout in PnR coverage, protect the rim without getting in foul trouble and dominate the defensive glass.

Greg: They’ve had some success in years past by putting Bismack Biyombo on Howard in single coverage while their wing defenders stuck with the shooters. Because of that, we might see Biz average more minutes tonight that he’ll see in the near future. If they can avoid double-teaming Howard, they can also apply more pressure on James Harden, which usually pays off — he led the league in turnovers last season.

Dakota: Close your eyes and hope for the best? Honestly I would send Bismack Biyombo out there to be that supposed “defensive secret weapon” because he’s always solid when he was asked to defend Howard. Bismack’s able to keep up with the athletic Howard while able to use his 7’6 wingspan to potentially stop him in the low-post. When Biyombo isn’t on the court, I suppose you could Zeller on him during pick-and-roll situations because he is a quick and athletic frontcourt player despite the major disadvantage in terms of his overall strength compared to Dwight Howard.

3- PICK IT: Al Jefferson is back and Charlotte launches the 2013-’14 campaign tonight – who you got?

Spencer:Yes, Jefferson should be back, but how much he plays is unknown. I like Houston in this game, but not so fast. As our Saturday morning favorite Lee Corso would say – ‘Closer than the experts think!’

Greg: I’d like to be optimistic, but this one could get ugly. Between the three-point shooting and Howard’s rebounding, Houston is well-prepared to exploit some of Charlotte’s weaknesses. I’ll be happy if the Bobcats can keep things close.

Dakota: Hopefully they’ll be able to look relatively respectful throughout the game as they matchup against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Two of Houston’s biggest strengths (Dwight Howard and three-point shooting) will be a definite challenge for Charlotte so overall hope will be for the team to look as competitive and respectable as possible while showcasing some hopeful improvement from MKG, Walker, Cody Zeller and maybe Bismack Biyombo.