Trail Blazers vs Bobcats Monday, 12/03/12 AT 04:00PM

Trail Blazers Face Speedy Bobcats

12/03/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen

    After a thrilling win in double-overtime in Cleveland on Saturday night, the Trail Blazers (7-10) will play the Charlotte Bobcats (7-8) on Monday night in their sixth game of a seven game Eastern Conference road trip. The game will tip off at 4 PM be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        
    •    What served Portland well in Cleveland was a full performance from their entire roster. The Trail Blazers bench stepped up their production behind great play from younger players that seemed to struggle to find their footing in their first month of the league. The tail end of November and the beginning of December have brought the light of a new day to players like Joel Freeland and Will Barton, who have each had the best outings of their young NBA careers on this road trip. The same could even be said for Meyers Leonard who scored a career-high on this trip as well although Leonard had already been a fixture in the Trail Blazers rotation. Amidst the team's struggles during their four-game losing streak, the Trail Blazers younger players have found some confidence and despite the occasional folly, look adjusted to the speed of the NBA. Freeland, Barton and Leonard have brought an excitement to the second unit that frankly, it lacked. As the Trail Blazers near the end of this long road trip, the play of their bench could continue playing a bigger factor. The Bobcats depend heavily on their surplus of talented guards (Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon) but also on their pace, as they play at the 9th fastest pace in the NBA. With their inclination to run and the Trail Blazers nearing the end of a road trip, especially after coming off a double-overtime game, will need that extra boost.
        
    •    Damian Lillard bounced back in a big way against Cleveland. After having a series of poor nights in Detroit, Washington and Boston, Lillard showed everyone again why he has been one of the biggest stories of the NBA this season. He was four rebounds short of a triple-double as he finished with 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds including a stretch 124-second stretch in the third quarter where he scored 10 of Portland's 12 points. Lillard's success has typically been a barometer for Portland's. In Portland's seven wins, Lillard scored over 20 points six times, with the only non-20-point performance coming in their win against Chicago. Also, the Trail Blazers have never lost when Lillard dishes eight or more assists, which has happened five times. The Bobcats rely heavily on their point guards, Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions, on offense so Lillard will have a big responsibility defensively as well.
        
    •    Portland must be ready to run. As noted in the first bullet point, the Bobcats play at the 9th fastest pace in the league (Portland ranks 20th in pace in the NBA). However, despite their propensity to run, the Bobcats have not been efficient, ranking 22nd in the league in points per possession in transition according to Synergy Sports Technology. Portland ranks 10th but only 9.3% of their offensive possessions count as transition plays compared to 18% for Charlotte, far and away the highest percentage in the league. One of the things that hurts the Bobcats is their lack of three-point shooting, where they are 26th in the league in percentage. Their biggest weapon in transition is rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrest, who ranks in the 89th percentile in points per possession in transition plays. The Trail Blazers have struggled defensively in transition and have had trouble finding three-point shooters. The man they must find if he is in transition is Ben Gordon, who is shooting 45% from three.
        
    •    Despite most of the Trail Blazers other players being inconsistent, LaMarcus Aldridge has been a rock for them on the road trip after missing the first game of the trip due to back spasms. He has averaged 23 points and 8.5 rebounds in the four games he has played on the trip, which are both higher than his current season averages. The Trail Blazers will need him to have another good performance if they want to escape Charlotte with a win. Aldridge will likely be matched-up against Byron Mullens, a stretch four player, who leads the Bobcats in three-pointers attempted (28% shooter on the season from three). If Aldridge draws the assignment against Mullens, the Trail Blazers will need JJ Hickson to get back to posting the rebounding numbers he had been posting prior to the last two games, where he has totaled only eight rebounds. However, the blowout against Boston and the the bench contribution against Cleveland likely have more to do with that than Hickson's individual play and effort, which has not wavered.


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