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Game #51: Bobcats vs. Spurs Preview

Who: San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Time Warner Arena, Charlotte, NC

San Antonio: Manu Ginobili (Out), Kawhi Leonard (Out)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

The timing might be right for the Bobcats to eke out a rare victory against the Spurs. San Antonio’s firmly in their “who cares” chunk of the season, resting five of their top seven rotational players in Thursday’s loss to the Nets. Part of that stemmed from legitimate injuries to Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, but it’s still unclear what kind of lineup we’ll see from Greg Popovich on Saturday.

At full strength, this is a very good Spurs team, and one that has the potential to steamroll Charlotte. Both teams have top-10 defenses, avoid fouls and rebound very well on the defensive end, but San Antonio marries that with one of the league’s most efficient offenses. The Spurs have  shifted their scoring focus this year, taking fewer three-pointers, but they hit a league-high 39.3 percent from long range and make 52.2 percent of their two-pointers, too.

Offensively, the Bobcats will need a hot game from mid-range. Like a lot of good defenses, the Spurs essentially concede that shot, giving up the fourth-most mid-range attempts. From their perspective, a two-point jumper is the best possible result, as it’s fundamentally less efficient than an attempt at the rim or from three-point range. One of the weaknesses of the Bobcats offense is how much they rely on mid-range shots: they’re fifth in attempts from that area, but only make 35.8 percent (27th). A fluky-hot game from Gerald Henderson and/or Kemba Walker, paired with another big game from Al Jefferson, could be enough to overcome the Bobcats’ usual shakiness on offense.

Having their full starting lineup is huge for Charlotte. The Walker-Henderson-MKG-McRoberts-Jefferson lineup has been good on offense and elite on defense, rating better on that end than the Pacers’ terrific starting lineup. That sample size is suspiciously small, though, as Jefferson, Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist have all missed large chunks of time. The full starting lineup has only played 187 minutes together, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain that level of play in the long term and against top-tier opponents.