During the first week of this season, the Pelicans whipped the Bobcats soundly, 105-84. Back then, optimism was rampant in New Orleans and many believed Charlotte remained a cellar dweller. Fast forward to today and things couldn't be anymore different. They've won 6 of their last 10 and are in the thick of the Eastern conference playoff race. Meanwhile, local fans are pondering whether the Pelicans have a conceivable chance at one of the worst 5 records in the league.
The biggest reasons for Charlotte's turnaround has been their defense and their man in the middle, Al Jefferson. The Bobcats have the 6th best defensive rating in the league and allow only 97.1 points per game. They hold their opponents to a 44 FG% (6th best) and don't put opponents on the line (20.1 attempts - 3rd best).
Since the calender flipped to 2014, Al Jefferson has been a monster averaging 24.0 PPG, 10.7 REB, 2.6 AST and 1 BLK/STL. In the last ten games, his play is largely responsible for Charlotte having the best front court efficiency differential in the league (+18.0).
3 keys to victory:
- Slow down Jefferson. Going into tonight's matchup, he's been on fire while our mash unit at center has usually been a weakness. Somehow, someway, Alexis Ajinca and Greg Stiemsma are going to have to have to combine for an adequate game. Scoring won't be as much of a necessity as not allowing Jefferson to go for 25+ points on a better than 50% from the floor.
- Shoot the perimeter jumpers. Although the Bobcats have a good opponent field goal percentage, they aren't adept at guarding the deep ball. Opposing teams have made 37.2% of their shots from beyond the arc, one of the worst marks in the league. Shoot them with confidence Eric Gordon, Brian Roberts, Luke Babbitt and Anthony Morrow!
- Crash the offensive glass. The Bobcats are an excellent defensive rebounding team as opponents average a mere 9.8 offensive rebounds a contest. That's the league's second best mark and if the Pelicans want to score an upset, Anthony Davis and company will need to get a good amount of 2nd chance points.