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NBA Playoffs: How the Charlotte Bobcats compare with potential opponents

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/29/18/19/2iWw4.Em.138.jpeg|438
    Streeter Lecka - Getty Images
    The Miami Heat’s LeBron James works against the Charlotte Bobcats in a Jan. 18 game at at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/29/18/19/1tzjJd.Em.138.jpeg|452
    Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images
    The Chicago Bulls’ D.J. Augustin passes the ball during a Jan. 11 game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/29/18/19/YzSZ7.Em.138.jpeg|408
    Bruce Bennett - Getty Images
    The Indiana Pacers’ Lance Stephenson takes the ball down the floor against the New York Knicks in a Nov. 20 game at Madison Square Garden.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/29/18/41/1qu0pT.Em.138.JPG|209
    Tony Dejak - AP
    The Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan passes against the Cleveland Cavaliers' Matthew Dellavedova in a March 25 game.

Chicago Bulls

This season versus the Bulls: 0-3 (remaining game in Charlotte April 16)

Analysis: One of Bobcats coach Steve Clifford’s primary mentors in the NBA is Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau. No surprise, then, that their teams are similarly defense-centric. They play close games against each other, but the Bulls always seem to pull it out at the last minute.

Biggest matchup problem: The Bobcats don’t tend to be big-time scorers in general, but the Bulls really shut them down. For the season, the Bobcats average 88.3 points and 41.5 percent shooting against Chicago. That compares to 96.3 points and 44.2 percent for the season.

Game-by-game:

Nov. 18. Bulls 86, Bobcats 81. Jeff Taylor, who since suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, scored a career-high 20 points in this game.

Jan. 11. Bulls 103, Bobcats 97. Gerald Henderson scored a season-high 30 points, but ex-Bobcat D.J. Augustin beat his old team with 20 off the bench.

Jan. 25. Bulls 89, Bobcats 87. This is right about when Al Jefferson got healthy and aggressive. He had 32 points and 13 rebounds, not easy versus Chicago center Joakim Noah.

What’s different now: Augustin, who didn’t last a full season with the Raptors, has been really good in Chicago, filling in for the injured Derrick Rose.

Bobcats’ best chance: Jefferson would have to be consistently great because the Bulls make it so hard to score in the lane.


Indiana Pacers

This season versus the Pacers: 1-2

Analysis: Historically the matchup with the Pacers has been almost as rough as the one with the Heat – the Bobcats have won only two of the past 16 meetings. However, the trend line points up. The Bobcats lost by five in Indiana in December and clobbered the Pacers by 22 in the last meeting. Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker has played poorly in this series; he’s shooting 33 percent from the field and scoring 15.7 points, about two below his average.

Biggest matchup problem: While the Bobcats have been surprisingly successful containing Paul George, the Pacers’ All-Star small forward, they’ve had a rough time against shooting guard Lance Stephenson. Maybe that’s a cause/effect: The more attention they pay George on one wing, the less they have left for Stephenson on the other.

Game-by-game:

Nov. 27. Pacers 99, Bobcats 74. This was the Bobcats’ lowest-scoring game of the season. This was that early span when the Pacers’ defense looked as good as any team’s in a decade.

Dec. 13. Pacers 99, Bobcats 94. Stephenson’s 20 points were the difference on a night when the Bobcats were a real threat to win in Indianapolis.

March 5. Bobcats 109, Pacers 87. This was probably the Bobcats’ best performance of the season. They held George to 0-of-9 from the field and shot 50 percent against arguably the NBA’s best defense.

What’s different now: The Pacers aren’t the same intimidating team that won 16 of its first 17 this season. After the last meeting with Indiana, the Bobcats should be far more confident in this matchup.

Bobcats’ best chance: They’re going to need some bad shooting nights from the Pacers, but that’s not out of the realm of possibility. Extending this series to five or six games is best case.

Miami Heat

This season versus Heat: 0-4

Analysis: The Bobcats haven’t beaten the Heat since the start of the 2010-11 season which – not coincidentally – is when LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived to join Dwyane Wade.It is fair to say the Bobcats have been more competitive this season. They had a one-point loss in Miami in December and an overtime loss in January. If there’s hope, it would be in how center Al Jefferson has played; in three games against the Heat (he missed the first one with an ankle injury), Jefferson is shooting 57 percent from the field, averaging 25.3 points and 15.3 rebounds.

Biggest matchup problem: James won’t make a habit of scoring 61 points, as he did March 3 against the Bobcats in Miami. That was an unusual night, in that James made eight 3s. But he’s so multi-faceted – a driver, a passer, a physical force – that whatever special steps you take to slow him down makes things easier for Bosh, Wade and Ray Allen.

Game-by-game:

Nov. 8. Heat 97, Bobcats 81. This was the game minus Jefferson. They didn’t have the offense to keep up, although Josh McRoberts had eight assists that night.

Dec. 1. Heat 99, Bobcats 98. The Bobcats led the Heat by as much as 14. It took three improbable 3-pointers by Bosh to hold off the upset.

Jan. 18. Heat 104, Bobcats 96, OT. This was right about the time Jefferson’s ankle really got healthy. He went for 22 points and 14 rebounds against Bosh, who is more a finesse center than a bruiser.

March 3. Heat 124, Bobcats 107. James’ magnificent 61-point night overshadowed one of Jefferson’s best games as a Bobcat – 38 points and 19 rebounds.

What’s different now: Losing Jeff Taylor for the season to an Achilles rupture is one less body Steve Clifford has to try to guard James. It’s tough for Anthony Tolliver to match up with James’s quickness and explosion.

Bobcats’ best chance: After 16 consecutive losses, just avoiding a sweep against these guys would represent progress. A healthy James is a matchup nightmare in a seven-game series.


Toronto Raptors

This season versus the Raptors: 3-0

Analysis: Obviously this would be the best matchup for the Bobcats, who have won 11 of the past 14 meetings with the Raptors. However, all three of the Bobcats’ victories this season came before February, and the Raptors improved dramatically as the season wore on. Trading Rudy Gay proved to be very good for the Raptors’ ball movement.

Biggest matchup problem: The Bobcats give up the second-highest 3-point percentage in the NBA at 37.5 percent. The Raptors take a lot of 3s (23 per game) and make nearly nine per game. The Bobcats make defending the paint the first priority, but the Raptors would challenge them to close out on perimeter shooters.

Game-by-game:

Nov. 6. Bobcats 92, Raptors 90. Gerald Henderson outplayed DeMar DeRozan, scoring 23 points.

Dec. 18. Bobcats 104, Raptors 102, OT. Kemba Walker was on a scoring spree – 29 points in the middle of a five-game barrage of 131 points.

Jan. 20. Bobcats 100, Raptors 95. Al Jefferson was so much more than a scorer; he had 19 rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

What’s different now: The Raptors didn’t see the best of Jefferson this season. He had two games of 30 or more points through Jan. 20 and nine since.

Bobcats’ best chance: The Raptors haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2007-08 season, so this is the one matchup where the Bobcats wouldn’t have a decided disadvantage in experience.

Rick Bonnell

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