Gametime: 7:00 p.m. EST
The Bobcats head back on the road today to take on the Orlando Magic, their division and bottom-feeder foe. Orlando's coming off a triple-overtime loss against the Chicago Bulls in which rookie Victor Oladipo had a career game finishing with 35 points.
Oladipo has been one of the few first-round picks from this past draft class to perform at a high level so far. Only he and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are shooting 40 percent from the field or better among top-10 draft picks (and C.J. McCollum, but he's only played three games to this point).
The Magic intend to put the ball in Oladipo's hands at point guard or shooting guard due to his driving ability. He's struggled to control his turnovers with a ballooning turnover percentage (the estimate of turnovers per 100 possessions) of 19.6 percent. His scoring ability is mostly limited to driving to the hoop at this point due to an inconsistent outside jump shot (29.1 percent from behind the arc). To his credit, getting to the rim isn't a big problem and he has the strength to draw contact and get to the charity stripe. Oladipo's been working on a floater to bridge the gap between his inside and outside offense, which could make him scarier as team's try to cut off his path to the bucket with defensive rotations under the rim.
Defensively, Oladipo can be a nightmare with his ability to stay in front of opponents, the strength to body guards and some forwards and the athleticism to even defend the rim, as Damian Lillard learned the hard way.
Injuries have unfortunately cut into the Magic's season, however. Nikola Vucevic is recovering from a concussion and was previously healing from an ankle sprain in December and earlier this month. Glen Davis missed over a month recovering from a foot fracture. Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo have all suffered ankle or foot sprains that have kept them out of multiple games at some point this season. Afflalo and Nelson are probable tonight with a foot strain and cramps, respectively so only Vucevic should be missing.
If the Bobcats' defense resembled what it played like towards the beginning of the season, this probably could have been a fairly easy game. Orlando relies heavily upon their ability to get to the paint with Oladipo and Nelson's strength in splitting the pick and roll to get inside. Their perimeter shooting is lacking as a team but Nelson and Afflalo can put the ball in the hoop from behind the arc quite well. If Charlotte can limit the Magic's ability to get shots at the rim and challenge them well, Orlando's offense would be seriously hindered. However, the defense struggles nowadays and has been falling in the rankings since the high point as a top-3 defensive team. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's return should help this, but we shall see.
Orlando's a subpar offensive rebounding team so the Bobcats should be able to put a lid on the Magic's second-chance scoring opportunities, especially with Vucevic out.
Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson have been on a scoring tear lately, each having scored 20 points or more in the past week's games. Since November 18, Walker has had one game in single-digit scoring figures. The Bobcats, nonetheless, will need more involvement from their role players on offense to win games, whether against the Magic or not.