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Game 51 Preview: Blazers vs. Bobcats

A Look at the Bobcats

Don't let Charlotte's 18-31 record fool you.  They've been playing .500 ball for the last month and a half now.  Even worse, they have a nasty habit of beating other struggling teams, which includes us right now.

Much like Memphis a couple years ago, the Bobcats spread out their minutes and shots.  As a result they have seven people averaging double figures, but those averages range only from Matt Carrol's 11.2 ppg to Gerald Wallace's 15.5 ppg.  (With a seven-pronged offensive attack like that maybe they should have called themselves the hydras...)  Wallace and Emeka Okafor are the centerpieces of their team.  Wallace is a 6'7" scoring/slashing forward who shoots a good percentage and can drop a ton of bricks on your head at a moment's notice (much as he did against New York a couple weeks ago, scoring 42).  Okafor dominates on the defensive end.  He's a 6'10" athletic, rebounding, shot-blocking monster.  He doesn't take a ton of shots but those he takes, he hits.  6'1" guard Raymond Felton is a horrible shooter from anywhere but the three-point line but he averages 7.5 assists a game.  Journeyman Matt Carroll, a former Blazer, has a deadly perimeter jumper.   Rookie Adam Morrison and old-time Brevin Knight also get major minutes but Knight may be sidelined with an abdominal injury.  Also out is young forward Sean May.  One time star-in-waiting Primoz Brezec has had a horrible season.  The offensive-minded center is shooting 44% for the season and is averaging fewer than four rebounds a game in limited minutes.  He has just come off of injury himself.  Like many teams Portland has faced this year the Bobcats are a little banged up.

There are many similarities between the Bobcats and the Blazers.  Both are relatively young teams, or at least play young guys in key positions.  Neither team scores much and both teams give up far more than they score themselves.  The Blazers shoot the ball a little better but also allow the opponent a higher field goal percentage.  Aside from particular players neither team shoots the long ball very well.  Two main differences are that Charlotte wants to speed the game up a little more and they're much poorer free throw shooters than the Blazers.  The Blazers are a better rebounding team even though Okafor is clearly the best individual rebounder on either team.  The Bobcats love to turn you over and run out on you if they can.  As you might expect from the multitude of scorers they're not bad at sharing the ball.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  The key to playing defense against the Bobcats is forcing their individual players to their weaknesses.  Unlike most teams Charlotte doesn't have multi-faceted offensive talents.  Get Emaka Okafor away from the basket.  Turn Gerald Wallace into a jump shooter.  Make Matt Carroll put the ball on the floor.  Let Felton and Morrison shoot a lot but with hands in their faces.  In other words know who you're guarding and where he wants to go.  If you deny them that spot...brick city.
  2.  The clear shot that everybody can hit is a layup, and everybody save perhaps Carroll will take an active part (and even he will hit a three on the secondary break).  Don't shoot long unless you're going to hit, don't turn it over, and get back.
  3.  Okafor is a load on defense.  If he's guarding Zach then Zach would be well-served to take him outside for the face-up jumper.  With May out there aren't too many people left to get that ball.  I don't think you can post on him a lot because he can move too quickly and he'll block your shot.
  4.  Other than Emeka one-on-one or off the help these guys don't really scare you a lot on defense.  Other than Zach shooting, and especially if he's getting the big guy out of the paint by doing so, everyone else should be driving it down Broadway.  They allow a lot of foul shots so take advantage!
  5.  If you manage most of that, then out-rebound and out-hustle them the game should be yours.
We've seemed to do well on opening games of road trips after disappointingly tough losing home stands.  Let's hope the trend continues.  Don't forget the game is at 4:00 Pacific time.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)