Dec 31, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker (15) grabs a rebound during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. The Bobcats won 91-81. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers (7-26) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (8-23) Preview

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January 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH USA: Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters (3) goes up for a shot as Sacramento Kings small forward Francisco Garcia (32) defends during the game at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers failed to dispose of the second-worst away team in the Western Conference on Wednesday, as DeMarcus Cousins had his way with the Wine and Gold bigs. Lately the blunt of trade rumors, which were put to rest earlier this week by Sacramento Kings GM Geoff Petrie, Cousins finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Ever since returning from his team-enacted suspension, Cousins has had four straight double-doubles, with the most impressive one coming against the Cavs. Cleveland is struggling against the lower-echelon NBA teams, and they don’t get much lower than their opponents on Friday in the Charlotte Bobcats. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Arena and can be watched on Fox Sports Ohio and listened to on WTAM (1100 AM) and WFUN (970 AM). Here are some statistics to get you ready for the game:

Cavaliers (7-26, 4-15 away)

Offensive Efficiency – 97.6 (29th)

Pace – 94.4 (14th)

Turnover Ratio – 14.0 (15th)

Effective Field Goal Percentage – 46.1 (28th)

Defensive Efficiency – 105.9 (27th)

Average Points – 93.9 (24th)

Average Rebounds – 42.1 (15th)

Average Assists – 19.3 (30th)

Average Points Allowed – 99.3 (23rd)

Bobcats (8-23, 5-12 home)

Offensive Efficiency – 98.7 (27th)

Pace – 95.1 (8th)

Turnover Ratio – 13.1 (5th)

Effective Field Goal Percentage – 45.9 (29th)

Defensive Efficiency – 108.0 (30th)

Average Points – 95.4 (19th)

Average Rebounds – 41.9 (16th)

Average Assists – 19.4 (29th)

Average Points Allowed – 103.8 (30th)

When the Bobcats began their 18-game losing streak, which started on November 26 and carried on until December 29, it was in the form of a 45-point blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are coming off of a streak-snapping win over the Chicago Bulls, and have their sights set on another Central Division squad in the Cavaliers. With the plethora of close games that the Wine and Gold have been apart of, especially against teams that fans claim the Cavs “should” beat, this is an instance where Cleveland must come home with a victory.

As you already know, Anderson Varejao has missed more playing time than many thought he would end up sitting out for. Without Wild Thing, Tyler Zeller will be expected to go up against Byron Mullens of the Bobcats. Mullens, along with rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Tyrus Thomas, are powering the fifth-best blocking team in the NBA with an average of 6.6 swats. Unfortunately for the Cavs, they rank last in team blocks per game (3.2) and second to last in opponent blocks per game (7.2). The Bobcats are the only team worse than the Cavs in that category, but I just don’t see the Cavaliers protecting the lane that well without Andy.

Cleveland will also be without veteran guard Daniel Gibson, who suffered a concussion last Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. Boobie’s stellar start to the season has faded over the past couple months, as he only managed to average 5.7 points off the bench in December. Instead, C.J. Miles has stepped up as the premier reserve scorer. In that same time span, Miles averaged 14.9 points and 3.1 rebounds, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 48.8 percent from three and 90.9 percent from the charity stripe. Against Sacramento, Miles began the game as the starting shooting guard, surpassing Dion Waiters as the traditional starter at the two.

Although Waiters was not happy, he played great off the bench against the Kings, which were familiar grounds for him at Syracuse. He totaled 20 points in 29 minutes, and may again be in that same position against the Bobcats. Whichever is the case, Cleveland will have to buckle down on the defensive side of things against the Bobcats high scoring bench. They rank fifth in the NBA with 39.3 points per game, while Cleveland is sitting at 29th with 25.4 points per game.

I believe this will be a close game for Cleveland, and they need to learn how to close out tight games. This is a team that the Cavs could do that against.

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Tags: Byron Mullens C.J. Miles Charlotte Bobcats Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters

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