Knicks @ Bobcats: MSG 7pm
The Knicks start their three game road streak tonight in Charlotte. The Bobcats started off the season very impressively, but have since regressed. They have lost four games in a row and are now 7-9. Their 7 win total thus far, matches their entire win total from last season. New head coach Mike Dunlap has done a tremendous job getting the most out of their personnel, and their effort has really picked up.
The Bobcats have six players averaging double figures lead by Kemba Walker’s 16.6 ppg and 5.9 assists. Michael Kidd Gilchrist has been a spark plug with his athleticism and he has played consistently in every facet of his game. In 27 minutes, Gilchrist is shooting 46% from field, averaging 11 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. Rookie Jeffrey Taylor is their starting shooting guard and shooting over 40% from downtown. Byron Mullens leads the team in rebounds with just over 8 in 33 minutes of action to go along with just under 13 points. Mullens can also space the floor from the outside as a big man.
The Bobcats also have surprising depth with Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Bismack Biyombo, and Brendan Haywood filling out their roles nicely. Sessions is the second leading scorer with 15.6 per contest to go along with just under 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Gordon is averaging 15 points per game, while shooting over 45% from three.
Statistically, the Bobcats are poor on both ends of the floor. Defensively, they allow the fifth most points per game at 101.6, and they have the third worse point differential. Offensively, they have the third worst field goal percentage as a team and ninth worse from three point land. Their effort and energy is what makes them competitive. They are fourth in the league in blocks, fifth in steals and they are the fifth best team taking care of the basketball, averaging just 13.4 turnovers a game.
For the Knicks, I expect both Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton to play and split their time three ways with Pablo Prigioni. With the Heat looming on Thursday, its imperative they keep both guards ready to go. Felton is so tough, I’m sure he’s going to start with Kidd coming off the bench to work back in slowly. The Knicks need to continue to take it one day at a time and to not look ahead to Miami. The Knicks must switch properly and hustle on defense, while not allowing the Bobcats to get out on transition off of turnovers. The Knicks are the best at this, but they need to be prepared for Charlotte’s consistent pressure. Offensively, the Knicks must share the ball and not become stagnant in order for the Knicks to come away with another road victory. Hopefully, the Knicks end it early and get some rest for the Heat.