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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Charlotte Bobcats Preview

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The Charlotte Bobcats bring one of the NBA's worst offenses into Portland to face the Blazers, the highest-scoring team in the league. Can the Bobcats manage to make this game ugly enough with their defensive approach to challenge the Blazers in the Moda Center?

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday, January 2
Moda Center; Portland, OR | 7:00 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: CSNNWHD; 620 AM
Out for the Blazers: C.J. McCollum (D-League assignment) | Out for the Bobcats: Jeff Taylor, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brendan Haywood
SBN Affiliate: Rufus on FireTimmay's viewing guideJersey contestBlazer's Edge Night

The Eastern Conference's current No. 6 team -- the 14-19 Charlotte Bobcats -- comes to Portland tonight to challenge the Blazers in a match-up that pits one of the NBA's best offenses against one of the league's better defenses.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, even though they're one of the best defensive teams in the league, they also have one of the worst offenses.

Center Al Jefferson, point guard Kemba Walker and wing Gerald Henderson attempt the most shots for Charlotte. This season, Jefferson has been shooting mostly at the rim, though he drifts outward for jumpers occasionally. Either way, he hasn't shot well lately and usually scores as many points as he has shot-attempts.

Walker pretty much evenly distributes his field-goal tries between three-pointers, jumpers and trips into the paint. He's not an amazing finisher at the rim, but there are a few spots in the mid-range where he's proficient and Walker can be a tough cover beyond the arc. Henderson prefers to operate within the perimeter normally, shooting a ton of jumpers and occasionally getting to the basket. He's pretty average at converting, and lately his field-goal percentage has been in the mid-40s, which is actually a step up from the rest of the Bobcats -- as a team, they're shooting about 40 percent overall.

Charlotte's next tier of scorers features guard Ramon Sessions to go with forwards Josh McRoberts and Anthony Tolliver. All three shoot about seven or eight times a night, but only connect on about 40 percent of those attempts. Guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and the center duo of Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo round out Charlotte coach Steve Clifford's rotation. Of the three, only Biyombo is hitting over 38 percent of his shots -- he sits at 57 percent the last few weeks, but takes fewer than three shots a game.

In short, the Bobcats have an inept offense right now. The outside-shooting has been at a respectable 41.2 percent clip in the last several games with Tolliver, Walker and McRoberts as consistent threats. Still, Charlotte shoots miserably otherwise and they've lost five of their last six outings, including a blowout loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles last night.

The Bobcats don't push the ball or pass it well, their shooting is off and Clifford's slow-paced offense barely manages to put points on the board at times. Charlotte doesn't commit many turnovers but they also don't do much else offensively, either. If Jefferson and Walker's contributions can be limited -- they should help out the Blazers' defense by missing plenty of shots -- the Bobcats will have a hard time keeping up with Portland.

Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge should be able to score against this Charlotte frontcourt. Jefferson, McRoberts and Zeller are all pretty poor individual post-defenders. Biyombo is actually solid at defending the paint, but his minutes are limited and he'll likely match up with Portland center Robin Lopez, who has been the Blazers' most accurate shooter as of late on eight attempts per night.

The Bobcats' defense locks down the area within the three-point line, but it's more forgiving beyond the perimeter. Will Portland be able to exploit Charlotte's mediocre defense of the arc? Maybe. Only guards Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews have been shooting well from outside the last couple weeks, with Lillard connecting on about 57 percent of his attempts. Backup guard Mo Williams, wing Nicolas Batum and forward Dorell Wright have all been firmly entrenched in deep-shooting slumps for a number of games lately, but all three have also provided timely hits from beyond the arc at some point.

As a team, the Blazers have been shooting somewhat poorly. Besides Lopez and backup center Meyers Leonard, no Portland players are hitting half of their shot-attempts. The referees also haven't awarded as many free-throws to the Blazers as they were earlier in the season, so while Portland is an elite team at shooting from the line, they've been getting there slightly less lately.

Charlotte is one of the best defensive-rebounding teams in the league, but the Blazers have several feisty offensive rebounders, especially Lopez and backup big man Joel Freeland. On the other side of the boards, both teams are pretty mediocre but Leonard, Freeland and Aldridge are solid defensive rebounders. Jefferson, Biyombo and Zeller are the Bobcats' best individuals at cleaning up the defensive glass. Jefferson has out-rebounded Aldridge lately, but both teams are otherwise evenly matched on the boards.

Charlotte's been on a pretty bad streak lately, they're not a good road team and the Blazers usually play well at the Moda Center and will look to kick off a six-game stretch against below-.500 teams with a win tonight. In fact, the Bobcats' 14-9 record is better than any of Portland's next five opponents -- Philadelphia, Sacramento, Orlando, Boston and Cleveland have a combined winning-percentage of .344.

If the Blazers keep up their electric offensive performance -- they were held to below 100 points against the Thunder a couple nights ago for the first time since late-November -- Charlotte probably won't be able to manufacture enough points to pull off the upset. Still, Portland can't be caught sleeping tonight because they've gone through some cold stretches lately and the Bobcats usually play pretty good defense. A shootout isn't likely, but the Blazers should still be able to find some separation from Charlotte if they operate their offense as well as they've proven capable of lately.

-- Chris Lucia | | Twitter