For Charlotte Bobcats fans and players, 2012 is a year they hope to forget. But before the ball drops to christen a new year, the Bobcats have one more game left on the 2012 calendar.
The Chicago Bulls will host the Bobcats New Years Eve afternoon. The Bulls will enter the game 16-12 with the lead of the Central Division, while the Bobcats are 7-23 and losers of 18 straight.
Saturday, the Bobcats had a great opportunity to end their losing streak, but blew a 20-point lead to the New Orleans Hornets in Charlotte. Ending the streak won’t get any easier, as they face one of the best defenses in the league in Chicago.
The Bulls are second in the league in opponents scoring at home, giving up just 89.6ppg. They’re currently third in opponents scoring and fourth in defensive rating. The Bulls activity inside with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson is known to give teams problems at the rim. For the Bobcats struggling offense, looks could be tougher to come by when facing a brickwall like Chicago’s defense.
For Charlotte, defense hasn’t been near as fluid as it has for the Bulls. Charlotte is last in the league in opponents scoring on the road, giving up 107.6ppg. Fans have been furious about the results of the defense so far this season, particularly when it comes to defending the three.
The Bobcats are 29th in the league in opponents three-point percentage. This is apart of how New Orleans was able to get back in the game against Charlotte, as they finished 11-24 (.458) from three.
Oddly enough, the Bulls aren’t a team that relies on three-point shooting. They’re last in the league in three-point attempts and makes. However, the team does have perimeter shooters like Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Luol Deng and Nate Robinson who won’t hesistate to shoot from distance. It’s an understatement to say that the Bobcats shouldn’t take them for granted.
For the Bobcats perimeter scoring, it seems like someone is always struggling. For a bit it was Ramon Sessions, while Ben Gordon dealt with knee soreness. Right now, it’s Kemba Walker. Kemba will be matched up with a tough defensive point guard in Hinrich, who despite shooting struggles, continues to be an above-average one-on-one defender. The past five games, Kemba’s shooting has slipped, shooting just 37% from the field and averaging 14ppg.
Despite a stinker against New Orleans, Sessions has been putting together a good streak of games, getting back to the play he had in November. Former Bull Ben Gordon had 14 points in 18 minutes against the Hornets. In 11 games against his former team Gordon averages just 9.7ppg, which is the lowest average against any opponent in his career. As always, the Bobcats will need strong games from these two off the bench to have a shot at a good offensive night.
What other players could be key tomorrow though?
Players to watch:
- Marco Belinelli, Chicago Bulls: After a slow start to the season, Belinelli has come on strong for the Bulls in the month of December. He started 12 games in place of Richard Hamilton, who recently returned to the Bulls starting lineup. In December Belinelli is averaging just under 15ppg, but is shooting 42% from three. With the Bobcats struggles on the perimeter, Belinelli could see a lot of good looks to continue his holiday sharpshooting. The Bobcats are really going to have to know where he’s at when the Bulls drive/kick, run him around screens and where he spots up in transition off stops.
- Hakim Warrick, Charlotte Bobcats: Warrick is just one of three current Bobcats players who are former Bulls. In three games as a starter Warrick is averaging 14.6ppg, 7.7reb, and shooting just under 52% from the field. His athleticism around the hoop and overall energy level has been a welcome addition on both sides of the ball. Warrick might not be the key offensively for the Bobcats to get through the Bulls defense, but I’m more so interested in seeing what he continues to do as a high-minute starter in an injury-plagued Bobcats frontcourt. The Bulls have a much more competent frontcourt with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, so if Warrick is the only one having an effective afternoon, it could be a long night.
The Bobcats and Bulls will tip off 3 p.m. from Chicago.