01/15/14 2:43 pm EST
This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series, which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats, who have lost eight of their last ten, but got a solid win against New York last night and currently sit inthe 8th and final playoff spot in the East.
After the jump, I’ll look at Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Charlotte team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Spencer Percy at queencityhoops.com, as Spencer will answer Fo’ questions on his Bobcats squad from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) Sixers Defense to Show Up: Charlotte’s offensive game has improved slightly since we last saw them on December 6th (1 game of 100+ points prior to 12/06/13; 10 games of 100+ points since), but they still are not the “Showtime” Lakers and average only 93 ppg. (28th in the NBA). The Cats posted 108 vs. the Knicks last night and 105 points on the 76ers in a 17 point victory back on December 6th. Still, tonight I’m looking for the Sixers roster to show some pride, buckle down defensively, hold the Cats to around 95 points and grab a win. I know that doesn’t go along with my pro-tanking philosophy very well, but it could be a long time before the Sixers have a legit chance to win a game again and break this losing streak, so I’d like to grab a W over Charlotte.
2) Thad: Over his last 10 games, Thad is averaging 21.7 points per night. However in his last 3 runs, he has fallen off and is boasting a paltry shine of 12.3 ppg. I’m looking for Thad to have a big game tonight and get his career year back on track. To help Thad out, I want Brown to call his number early and often. But even with a lot of early touches, it won’t be easy a scoring night for Thad. The Bobcats boast a stellar defense and on December 6th Charlotte held #21 to 9 points (3-9 / 0-2 from 3)
3) Kemba on MCW: When they two teams last met back on December 6th, MCW sat out with his knee “injury” and Kemba Walker had a field day — 18 & 10 as well as 46% shooting from the field. I know #1 has trouble defending smaller, quicker guards, so I am not asking for MCW to shut Walker down with his defense. What I am hoping is that MCW can make Walker work his ass off on defense for Charlotte and the spent energy on that end of the floor will combine with weary legs from back-to-back games in order to take some of the punch out of Walker’s offensive game.
4) Sixers Bigs vs. Al Jefferson: Al Jefferson has been plagued by an ankle injury all year that may require surgery in summer 2014. That’s a big reason, he is averaging only 16.8 points per night (His lowest since 2006-07), and his 45.2% shooting from the field is the worst of his career. However, Al exploded last night for a season-high 35 points in a 108-98 victory over the Knicks in Charlotte. Jefferson finished 14 of 20 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. Obviously Hawes can not stop Jefferson on his own. So with Lavoy out again (No comment.) and Moultrie still not ready; a combination of Hawes, Thad and the newly signed Dewayne Dedmon will be asked to hold a theoretically tired Jefferson under 30 points tonight.
Q&A with Spencer Percy at queencityhoops.com:
Philadunkia: The Bobcats have lost 8 out of their last 10 (Big win over NYK last night). What are some of the ills that have plagued Charlotte during this stretch?
Spencer Percy at queencityhoops.com: A reeling defense. Kidd-Gilchrist returning to the lineup last night will help this team in so many ways – for starters, MKG is the anchor to a defense that was top-5 in the league until his injury. Just wrap your mind around this stat — last night, Charlotte sported a 99.1 defensive rating with MKG on the floor and a 113.0 with him off. That tells you just about all that you need to know about this teams identity.
Philadunkia: We all know that Philadelphia product Gerald Henderson has really shown some improvement this season. But from what I have read online and seen on NBATV Henderson has taken to another level in January. What do you see as the reasons for Henderson’s recent surge?
Spencer Percy at queencityhoops.com: Hendo is simply hitting shots right now. His comfort zone is the right corner, where he loves to use his rhythm dribble + fade away to get his shot. A few things that stick out about Hendo’s performance so far in January — 1) He’s getting to the foul line at a high rate – earning 5.7 trips to the charity stripe/game. 2) Hendo is taking more 3′s this month and he’s making 45.5% of them – likely somewhat of an anomaly, but it’s a great sign that the willingness to take the long-range shot continues to progress.
Philadunkia: Will the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist provide enough of a boost for the Bobcats to help them get past/stay in front of the surging Nets & Knicks in the standings and into the 2014 post season?
Spencer Percy at queencityhoops.com: It’s hard to tell — on night’s when Jefferson or Kemba struggle to score the Bobcats are rather pathetic on the offensive end. To me, if this group returns to being a top-5 defensive unit again then I believe that will get them over the top and into the playoffs – without the return to the elite group of defenses, I just don’t see where the points are going to come from, consistently, for Charlotte.
Philadunkia: Bobcats owner Michael Jordan signed Al Jefferson last off-season to a big deal and has frequently stated that he is against tanking in the NBA. However, given where the Cats stand right now — 15 wins & clinging to the 8th seed in the East — do you think MJ needs to rethink his opinion on tanking?
Spencer Percy at queencityhoops.com: Whether he should re-think it or not, he’s not going to. This team is poised to make a post-season push and getting Jefferson going on the offensive end for the remainder of the season is going to be key to that. Last night was a great start to the return of MKG and if this team can string together some wins by all-star break + stay in the playoff hunt, I’m fairly certain they’ll end up being buyers at the trade deadline.
Thanks to Spencer for his time and answers.
You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.