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Game #6: Bobcats vs. Knicks 2-on-2 Preview

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs New York Knicks

What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Charlotte 3-2 98.8 (26) 103.4 (13) 91.3 (29)
New York 1-3 99.1 (24) 101.2 (11) 92.9 (23)

Previous Meetings:
Tuesday, Nov. 5: Charlotte 102, New York 97

Charlotte: Al Jefferson (Questionable), Brendan Haywood (Out)
Toronto: Tyson Chandler (Out)

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Knicks
PG Kemba Walker Raymond Felton
SG Gerald Henderson Pablo Prigioni
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Iman Shumpert
PF Josh McRoberts Carmelo Anthony
C Bismack Biyombo Andrei Bargnani
6th Man Ramon Sessions Amar’e Stoudemire

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network 1- STATS. The Bobcats are winning with defense so far, ranking 13th in defensive efficiency. Do you think that’s sustainable?

Spencer Percy: No, but Charlotte is going to be much improved from last season by the end of this one either way. The Bobcats have a plethora of above average wing defenders (Hendo, MKG & Taylor) who will have to carry the load most of the season, but insert Al Jefferson back into the lineup and I think this team automatically becomes weaker on the defensive end.

Greg Pietras: Agreed — they’ll likely see a dip once Al comes back into the lineup. It’s TBD whether his offensive skills will be enough to make up the difference, but I’d expect the team to take a step back in the short term when he returns. Without Jefferson, this is basically the same team as last year, and that familiarity has helped Charlotte so far. Playing higher-caliber opponents will also knock them down a few pegs.

2- BIG PICTURE. Charlotte has five games under their belts — what would you say are their biggest strengths and weaknesses at this point?

Spencer: The biggest strength for this team currently is their ability to take care of the ball – Charlotte is 7th-best in the league in turnover ratio at 14.1. Clearly, the glaring weakness is their efficiency shooting the ball from the field. The Bobcats rank 28th in TS% (true shooting percentage) at 49.2 and 26th in effective FG% at 44.6 – both of these stats should improve when Jefferson returns to the lineup.

Greg: On offense, the team’s lack of shooters is always going to be a burden. But another glaring weakness is tied to one of their best strengths: free-throw shooting. So far, Charlotte has done a terrific job of getting to the line, ranking fourth in FT/FGA. That’s helped float some of the shakier elements of their offense until Al Jefferson returns. But as talented as they are at earning those attempts, they’ve also squandered a lot of their chances. The team’s 65% free-throw shooting ranks dead last in the league, and it’s not particularly close to 29th. Bismack Biyombo will probably always be an anchor on the Bobcats’ percentages here, but players like Jeff Taylor (52%), Kemba Walker (67%) and Cody Zeller (50%) need to do better. They would have run away with close games against the Cavaliers and Raptors if they were hitting the league average.

3- PICK IT. Charlotte was able to squeak out a win at Madison Square Garden earlier this week. Who do you have tonight?

Spencer: I’ve got Charlotte again. It would be nice to see Big Al on the floor tonight due to the fact that Bargnani is likely going to start at center for NYK, but I’m not overly optimistic. The Knicks are in shambles offensively, as everything is going through Melo and the rest of the team are simply glorified spectators. Bobcats continue to ride the wave of momentum they’ve gained early on this season.

Greg: Tuesday’s game against the Knicks was close enough that it really could have gone either way, but these Bobcats have typically been a much better team at home. If MKG can help hold Carmelo to another poor shooting performance, I think they take this one by a wider margin.

If they do win tonight, they’re looking at a very winnable three-game stretch: home against Atlanta on Monday, at Boston on Wednesday, and at Cleveland on Friday. There’s a halfway decent chance the Bobcats could be sitting at 5-4 or (gulp) 6-3 by next Friday. From that point on, it only gets rougher, but starting that hot would be wonderful.