Scouting Report: Charlotte Bobcats
The Atlanta Hawks begin an important back-to-back with a trip to Charlotte to face the surging Bobcats. The Hawks already have a win in Charlotte, but that was way back in game number seven of the season, long before the Bobcats starting showing signs of being a legitimate playoff contender.
The Bobcats are within one game of .500 and are 2.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the standings thanks to six wins in their past seven games. One reason for the resurgence has been their stifling defense, as they’ve kept opponents under 100 points in all six wins during that stretch.
Center Al Jefferson will have his third run-in with former Utah frontcourt mate Paul Millsap. Jefferson is a tough cover as is, but he’s been player at a different level since the All-Star break. With another 20-point effort Sunday against Milwaukee, he’s at 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He’s developed a very good mid-range game, so he’s no longer a guy who you only have to worry about on the low block. With Pero Antic starting, Jefferson will have a size advantage inside, but Antic’s advantage will be taking the slower Jefferson away from the basket on the offensive end. I would expect the Hawks to send an extra defender at him, especially if he gets going early.
Point guard Kemba Walker’s assists don’t jump out at you, but he does have the ability to make plays. He likes attacking off the dribble and going for that mid-range pull-up jumper that he’s good at, which means Jeff Teague will need adequate help from his teammates in pick-and-roll situations.
The other big scorers are Gerald Henderson and newly acquired Gary Neal. Henderson, like Walker, will look to attach and pull up for twos, while Neal is probably Charlotte’s most prolific three-point threat, at least right now. He doesn’t start, but he’s hit 16-30 from deep since joining the team at the trade deadline.
The Bobcats are good defensively because they’re so fundamentally sound (third in the East in opposing FG%), although very little jumps off the stat sheet. They’re actually in the bottom five in steals, don’t rebound exceptionally well and only get 21 assists a game on the offensive end. Still, it’s a team that’s playing well right now, and the Hawks need to win games like these if they want to make a move in the East standings.
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