Game Preview: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Houston Rockets

bobcatsIt’s that time of the year again… the season opener. Except this is the last time that the Charlotte Bobcats tip-off for the first time.

This season, the team is entering its final season with the monicker “Bobcats” before the highly-anticipated switch to the Hornets next season. They open up away against a much-hyped Houston Rockets team.

Both teams played well in the preseason, with Charlotte going 5-3 and Houston going 6-1. Both teams made key acquisitions at center, with the Bobcats acquiring Al Jefferson and Houston acquiring Dwight Howard.

Al Jefferson is in question for the game tonight with a sprained ankle. He believes he can play, but if he does, his minutes will be limited, with the bulk of time going to back-up center, Bismack Biyombo. That’s actually not a bad thing for the Bobcats, as Biyombo tends to really show up and play well against Dwight Howard.

And that, ultimately, is the key match-up of the game. We can argue position superiority for each team by player and depth, but this game is going to be decided by whether or not Bismack Biyombo can play as well against Howard as he has in the past defensively, while making James Harden’s cuts into the paint strongly contested.

Houston’s starting five is set as follows: PG: Patrick Beverley, SG: James Harden, SF: Chandler Parsons, PF: Omer Asik, C: Dwight Howard. Jeremy Lin will be Houston’s sixth man.

Charlotte’s starting five is significantly less clear. Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will all be starting, but it’s not clear whether or not Cody Zeller or Josh McRoberts will start at power forward, and as mentioned earlier, the center position is up for grabs due to Jefferson’s status.

Houston is favored to win this game with two all-stars in the starting line-up in front of a strong home opening season crowd, but the Bobcats should be looking at this game with some optimism. They do have strengths that Houston doesn’t have, and if they play within their margin of error, they should be able to hang with the Rockets.

Charlotte’s defense will be put to the test, as the Rockets are going to spread the floor out on offense very well. It will be a very good test to see if Charlotte’s stout defense in the preseason carries over into the regular season, or if they still have more work to be done than expected.

It’s time for Charlotte basketball, and this game will give us a good look at what to expect from a very different roster than last year.

Key Match-up: Bismack Biyombo/Dwight Howard (Center)

Key Stat: Preseason rebounding favored Bismack over Dwight, with Biz grabbing 10.6 RPG (including two 20+ nights) to Howard’s 9.3

Will it matter: The Rockets, with the addition of Howard, have shifted center Omer Asik to power forward, and power forward Chandler Parsons to small forward. They have also opted to start back-up point guard Patrick Beverley over Jeremy Lin. Will it matter that two players are starting out of position, and can the Bobcats exploit these things to their advantage?

The Bobcats’ swansong will tip off at 8 PM EST.

Television: CSNH, SPSO
Tipoff: 8 p.m. EST
Line: Houston -13

Topics: Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Bobcats, Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, James Harden

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