Scouting Report: Charlotte Bobcats
The Hawks (37-43) will face the Bobcats (41-39) at Philips Arena in a matchup of the seventh and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte will be plenty motivated as the Bobcats are still in the hunt for the sixth seed and are just one game back of the Wizards, who they own the tie-breaker over. The Hawks — 6-2 in their last eight — clinched their playoff berth on Saturday night, and will be looking to keep their confidence high as they head into the playoffs.
Al Jefferson is the focal point of the Bobcats’ offense, scoring 21.9 points and pulling down 10.7 boards per game. Jefferson has excelled in his first season in Charlotte, taking well to new coach Steve Clifford’s system on offense and defense. Jefferson is a bruising force in the post, a bit of a throwback to centers of yesteryear, and has quite possibly the best offensive footwork of any player in the post. Jefferson has a full array of post moves and is almost automatic if he gets the ball in deep position. The Hawks defense will have to beat Jefferson to his spots, doing the work early on defense to keep him out of deep position, and when he does get the ball in the post, guards will need to be quick and decisive with their digs as they try to disrupt his rhythm on the block.
Along with Jefferson, Kemba Walker has been terrific for the Bobcats this year. Walker is averaging 17.8 points, 6.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. Walker has continued to grow as a point guard, becoming a very good facilitator while still being a significant scoring threat. Jeff Teague will be pressured on both ends of the floor by Walker, but Teague has been up to the challenge in each of the first three meetings between the two teams this season.
Defense has been the most impressive — and surprising — part of the Bobcats’ success. Steve Clifford has turned the Bobcats into one of the NBA’s best defensive teams in just his first season, using the Bobcats’ length and athleticism on the perimeter and wing to create an advantage. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Gerald Henderson are all extremely long wing defenders that allow the Bobcats to pressure the ball while still being able to make hard closeouts and rotations onto shooters. Walker is very good at pestering ball-handlers, and while Jefferson has never been known as a defensive player, Clifford has gotten the most out of the big man at the rim.
The Hawks have handled the Bobcats as well as any team this season, winning all three of their previous meetings this year. Paul Millsap dominated in their last meeting, a 97-83 win in Charlotte, scoring 28 points along with five rebounds. Millsap creates a match-up problem for Charlotte because if they put a smaller power forward on him, he can go to work in the post, while being able to draw a bigger defender out of the paint with his shooting ability. Millsap will sit out this matchup as Coach Bud looks to work in some different lineups.
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