Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The Charlotte Bobcats face the Houston Rockets for the second time in six games tonight in Houston. The Rockets snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating the Bobcats on January 21 behind a big fourth quarter from James Harden. Kemba Walker led Charlotte but will need more help tonight to snap Charlotte's latest two-game losing streak.
Gametime: 8:00 p.m. EST
If there is such thing as a revenge game for a team that actually won said game for which it seeks revenge, this might be it. The Rockets came to Charlotte on January 21 and by all accounts played as horrible as an NBA team can play for most of the game. Of course, that didn't stop them from making a furious comeback to win in the end.
Jeremy Lin was particularly awful that Monday afternoon in Charlotte. He was just 1-5 from the field scoring just four points with three assists. The early 2:00 PM tip for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday might explain some of the Rockets' sluggishness. But they were at the end of a seven-game losing skid so things had not been very pretty.
It's still difficult to understand how Omer Asik (4th in the NBA in rebounds per game at 11.3), who's basically a rebound waiting to happen, only grabbed eight against the Bobcats' depleted interior. Marcus Morris, Chandler Parsons, and Carlos Delfino did benefit from the Bobcat's lack of interior strength but it was James Harden who took the game over and eventually won it down the stretch.
Since that victory against Charlotte, the Rockets have won three of their last five with both losses coming against the Denver Nuggets.
On paper this looks like a pretty horrible matchup for the Bobcats. The Rockets rank second in the league in scoring at 105 points per game, shoot more threes than any other team, make more threes than any other team, grab the fourth most rebounds in the league and play the fastest of any team in the league according to basketballreference.com.
The Bobcats, as we know, rank 28th (out of 30) in the league in opponent points per game, have the second worst defensive rating in the league according to basketballreference.com, give up the most three-pointers made in the league, and rank 24th in the league in team scoring.
But that's why they play the game!
The Bobcats had success against the Rockets last time because the Rockets had somewhat of an off game to start, and it took forever for James Harden to abandon his jumper (he was just 5-20 from the field) and start attacking. He hit 19-21 free throws and led the comeback for the victory.
Kemba Walker was on fire during this game and will likely have to be again tonight. He and Ramon Sessions have pretty much been the Bobcats' scoring punch of late. Along with Ben Gordon, those two have been the most reliable point producers this year. The Bobcats will need a big night from those three again.
If Charlotte has any hopes of leaving Houston with a win, they'll have to once again keep Asik from dominating the boards (frankly there weren't a lot of rebounds to go around last time), keep Lin in check and hope Harden has another off night from the field.
Bismack Biyombo has been encouraging as of late and will be needed to hit the boards again against Asik. He was the game's leading rebounder the last time these two faced. Jeff Adrien could also help things inside. He only played 14 minutes the last matchup and has come on of late.
Guarding the three-point shot will of course be of particular concern again. It's becoming painfully obvious that the Bobcats are missing the personnel, the mindset, the strategy or all three to effectively defend the three. If Delfino (40% 3pt) and Parsons (36% 3pt) are left open they will hurt Charlotte.
Both Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullens could return tonight. Mullens' return will be welcome because regardless of what his defensive effectiveness may be, he can help in the scoring department (usually). And any help inside(ish) is a positive for Charlotte.