Four-Pointer: Previewing the Charlotte Bobcats

Mike Ehrmann

The Charlotte Bobcats make their only appearance at the American Airlines Center tonight. It will also be the last time they travel to Dallas as the Bobcats. Next season they change their name back to the Hornets.

What has Charlotte done lately?

Well, they played a thriller in Miami on Sunday night. The Bobcats led going into the fourth, paced by Kemba Walker's 27 points. In the end though, the Heat proved to be too much as they rode Chris Bosh's late shooting to a 99-98 victory.

Charlotte has only strung together consecutive wins twice this season.

What are the Bobcats' biggest strength and weakness?

The Bobcats are one of the best defensive units in the league (more on that in a second) and are quite good at getting to the free throw line. Charlotte is also a top ten rebounding team. This may come as a surprise to many who regularly dismiss the Bobcats as bottom feeders and perpetual Draft Lottery participants but they are getting a few things right this year.

Unfortunately, what they are doing right is overshadowed by what ails them. While the Bobcats have taken the fourth most two-point attempts in the league, they are only making 43.5 percent of them. That is the second lowest mark in the NBA. In fact, Charlotte ranks second to last in every shooting percentage category and dead last in over all field goal percentage. Even though this team gets to the line a lot, it is negated with poor free throw shooting.

Their poor shooting numbers also disclose that many of the shots they take are low efficiency shots. Charlotte has taken 297 shots from 15 to 19 feet this year. The only distance where they have taken more shots is within five feet. Long twos are the bane of any offense and the Bobcats have fallen in love with them.

What stat might surprise you about the Bobcats?

Okay, back to Charlotte's defense. The Bobcats hold their opponents to just 91.8 points per game. That is the second best opponent's points per game mark in the league. Only the Pacers rank higher. That is some good company to keep. Charlotte also posts the third best defensive rating in the NBA at 100.3. Defensive rating, in case you are unfamiliar, is the number of points allowed per 100 possessions.

This is a dramatic improvement from last season. Under Mike Dunlap, the 2012-13 Bobcats allowed 102.7 points per game and had a defensive rating of 111.5. These marks were second to last and last in the league respectively.

While it is still a small sample size, new head coach Steve Clifford has the Bobcats giving a concerted defensive effort. It is uncertain whether this effort will be maintained for the rest of the season but the early results are incredibly promising. However, the Bobcats only score 89.2 points per game. If Charlotte could improve its dismal offense, they could rise above the morass that consumes much of the Eastern Conference.

What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Bobcats?

In what will certainly be repeated like a broken record this season, the Mavericks just need to score and score a lot. That is the only thing that they do remarkably well. Nine of Charlotte's ten loses have come when they have allowed 90 or more points. The Bobcats have also not won a game this season when their opponent scores 100 or more points. Therefore, Dallas needs to reach the 100 point mark at least if they hope to win. Doing so will not be easy against the Bobcats' stout defense, though.

If the Mavs do anything defensively, they must force the Bobcats into taking the long twos that they habitually take anyway. It would also behoove Dallas to make Charlotte's players go left rather than right. The Bobcats take more shots from the right side of the court than the left.

Dallas' offense is potent enough to knock the Bobcats out of the game early. If they do that, Twitter will be replete with prayers for @CardboardGerald. If they don't, pray for @KirkSeriousFace.

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