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Game 11 Preview: Blazers at Bobcats

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Wow, it's hard to believe we just passed the 1/8th point of the season.  Time flies.

A Look at the Bobcats

We should probably get one thing straight right away:  these are not your grandfather's Bobcats.  OK, your grandfather didn't have any Bobcats, they haven't been around that long.  Still this teams is better than you're used to.  They've handled the weaker sisters of the league in workmanlike fashion so far this year and currently sit at one game above .500.

The key to the Bobcats' attack is small forward Gerald Wallace.  He's very athletic and is averaging 19 points on 45% shooting.  Plus he gets 6 rebounds per game, helping Emeka Okafor clean the boards.  He's a nice distance shooter in addition to being able to kill you on the run.  Just about the only thing he can't do so far is shoot free throws.  Newly acquired shooting guard Jason Richardson is playing the buddy role, scoring nearly as much (17 per game) in many of the same ways.  He doesn't shoot nearly as well from the field (40%) but is even deadlier from long range.  He also grabs around 6 rebounds per game.  The mighty Bobcat scoring trio is rounded out by point guard Raymond Felton.  He scores 16 a game and dishes 7 assists.  Oh, and all three of these guys are above 1.5 steals per game as is the aforementioned Okafor, making them one of the peskiest starting units in the league.  

Speaking of Okafor, despite all of the scoring and running by the smaller guys he is really the heart of the Bobcats.  His excellent interior defense makes up for their lapses.  His rebounding average of 12.4 is eye-popping, making him pretty much the best offensive rebounder and one of the best defensive rebounders in the league.  Add in 1.7 blocks and this guy turns out to be a serious monster.

Beyond these guys you have Matt Carroll's excellent outside shooting and Jeff McInnis' veteran scoring presence but their bench is far, far weaker than their first unit.  If you can get into their pine-polishers you have an advantage.

Overall the Bobcats are scary rebounders and deep shooters.  They play mostly one-on-one and tend not to score big as a team, meaning if you can catch them on a bad defensive night you have a chance.  They turn the ball over too much and are horrible foul shooters.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  Other than Felton when any Bobcat touches the ball you can be pretty certain they're going to try and score.  In a way this is a disadvantage because our small-position defenders are looking very vulnerable and Wallace, Richardson, and Felton are all capable of tearing us up.  On the other hand if we have quick enough double teams and/or guys like Martell and Blake manage to stay in front of their men we should be able to take advantage of knowing pretty much where their shots are coming from on any given possession.  There's not a lot of subtlety to the defensive plan tonight.  Stop the ball.
  2.  Getting obliterated in transition is a distinct possibility.  Okafor's gravity well sucks rebounds from anywhere in the key and you can bet they're going to try and test us early with quick outlets.  Forget the offensive rebounds tonight.  Just get back.  Seeing Wallace and Richardson get a ton of rebounds might not be a bad thing for us because it means they're not dunking on the run.
  3.  Even though quick doubles on the ball could really help we must absolutely recover on the Bobcat shooters.  Wallace shoots 35% from three-point range and he's the worst of the bunch by far.  Richardson and Felton are shooting 43% so far and Carroll shoots 48%.  If you leave them open with time to set you're dead.
  4.  Did I mention they are nasty offensive rebounders too?  If we play zone somebody better take responsibility for Emeka.  It's really too bad that Lamarcus can't run him back up the court on the break himself but we need him to rebound.
  5.  Other than Okafor they don't have much interior defense at all.  If you can make him move and then dish the ball or just pull him away from the rim altogether you should be able to score in the lane.  I imagine we'll still be shooting a fair number of jumpers but we should at least work to draw them in and then dish for open jumpers.
  6.  We cannot work against the clock tonight.  They will rebound every miss.  We have to be much more efficient in our offense.
  7.  Turnovers could tell the story tonight.  We not only need to protect the ball we really could use some easy points by taking advantage of theirs.  The Bobcats get fewer shots up per game than most teams we've been playing lately and having 8-10 more shot attempts than they do at the end of the game would give us an advantage.
  8.  An extra one:  As we said after last game, none of this matters if we don't show any heart.  I expect to see a harder-fought and more confident game no matter how it turns out.  The Blazers surprised me Saturday by coming out so flat.  No more of that.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)