1. True or False: Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving will combine to score above 35 points against the Bobcats.
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: I’ll say false. Charlotte has several above average wings with length that have historically given the Irving and Waiters fits. For instance, the Bobcats can use Kemba Walker (who tends to play well against Irving) and Gary Neal on Waites. Neither is a world-class defender, but they have the right body type to slow down their Cleveland counterparts. The x-factor here will be how much the Bobcats miss Gerald Henderson – especially when Waiters is in the game. But I think Steve Clifford has his team playing strong team defense and it will result in a tough night for Irving and Waiters.
Chris Barnewall, Rufus On Fire Staff Writer: I definitely have to go with false. While Irving and Waiters are both solid scorers, the Bobcats have the sixth best defense in the NBA. They held Paul George to two points the other night and most players don’t have high scoring nights against Charlotte.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I’m never a fan of throwing out numbers like this, because there are two many variables that go into scoring. However I like Kyrie and Dion to have effective games against the Bobcats. Kemba Walker has been Kyrie kryptonite this season, but that was when Kyrie was really struggling back in the season’s first 20 games. I feel like Kyrie will be eager to avenge his poor performances. Likewise, Dion was firmly in rhythm against San Antonio, and I think a big game against Gerald Henderson will be a nice way for him to get on a roll coming back from injury. Charlotte’s defensive system will be tough to crack, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched at all to expect 20 from Kyrie and 15 from Dion in this contest.
2. The Bobcats made a nice deal for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour at the trade deadline. What have these two brought to the team so far?
CM: Neal and Ridnour have provided upgrades over the likes of Ben Gordon in the Bobcats rotation. For a team firmly (if not entrenched) into a playoff spot, they could have asked for more. Neal has given them shooting and, with Gerald Henderson battling some injuries, a solid replacement at shooting guard. On the other hand, Ridnour is backing up Kemba Walker nicely and giving the Bobcats decent minutes off the bench. Overall, these two have filled holes in the Bobcats’ bench (at least temporarily) and have helped them continue to push towards a postseason appearance.
CB: They provide three-point shooting and spacing which the Bobcats were sorely lacking in. Outside of Anthony Tolliver, the Bobcats didn’t have a single their-point shooter on the team. With addition of Gary Neal, who shoots almost exclusively from deep, they finally have someone that can do that for them. Ridnour provides a steady backup pointguard for them that can play a classic backup point guard role. When Ramon Sessions was the backup point guard his role was more so to score than anything else. Ridnour isn’t asked to do that and it fits him well.
TM: I liked this deal for both teams when it happened. Charlotte got rid of the best player in the deal in Ramon Sessions, but Neal and Ridnour fit what Charlotte needs from its bench better.The Bobcats have desperately needed outside scoring to space the floor, and with Neal shooting 46.7 percent from three through four games, he’s providing that. Meanwhile, Ridnour has been the steady hand that Sessions never really was in the backup point guard minutes, and is a nice veteran presence for a team basically relying on Al Jefferson and Josh McRoberts for that coveted #VeteranLeadership. Neal was in the Finals last year, and Ridnour has been around the block with the Bucks and Sonics, so these two will help lead a surprising Bobcats team into it’s second playoff appearance in franchise history.
3. The Bobcats have a very strong defense despite playing Al Jefferson at center. Will Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller, who are great at stretching the floor, be able to make a dent in this defense?
CM: I think so. On Tuesday, we saw Hawes and Zeller (but especially Hawes) have success against the Spurs inside. Now. no one is going to mistake the Bobcats for the the Spurs anytime soon, but the personnel is similar. As a result, I expect Hawes to have another big game and for Zeller to have success as well. Jefferson has been surprisingly good on defense this year, but Hawes is more than skilled enough to score on Jefferson. It also helps that Hawes will be able to pull Jefferson away from the rim and make him defend in space. This matchup is definitely favorable for hte Cavaliers and I think they should try to exploit this as much as possible.
CB: Probably not, the Bobcats are more than willing to allow a team to shoot midrange jumpshots all day long, and are good enough at rotating to contest these. Usually their big men fall back so they can protect the rim better. However, Jefferson isn’t very mobile so if the Cavs are smart they’ll do what they can to try and force Jefferson to have to move around a lot so they can counter off of this. However, the Bobcats are still good enough at rotating to make up for a lot of these counters. Scoring is going to be difficult.
TM: I’m not sure this is that big of a deal. Charlotte’s defensive formula has relied on tough perimeter defense all season, and they’re a good pick-and-roll team, particularly against the roll man. Hawes changes things a little bit because of his ability to float into open space on the three-point line, but Charlotte puts so much pressure on the ball-handler that even if Hawes is nicely spotted up, the ball might not ever get there. If Hawes is going to have an offensive impact, he’s going to have to set really strong screens to keep Charlotte from sending two guys at Kyrie, then slip to the three-point line if Irving gets free to pass. There are a lot of variables that will have to go right for that to happen, so I don’t see Hawes being the difference-maker here.