New York Knicks Stat Monkey Brief: Knicks/Bobcats (12/5/12)
A 7-9 record. In the midst of a four game losing streak. A .500 record on their home court.
The Charlotte Bobcats, tonight’s opponent for the Knicks, are far from daunting. However, they have played well of late, losing their last three games by a combined 15 points. Moreover, they held an 18-point fourth quarter lead on Monday against Portland before falling in overtime. So the Bobcats believe they are on the brink of a breakthrough and will be looking for a signature bounce back win tonight against the Knicks.
All the while, tonight is the Knicks’ first of three road games in four nights, highlighted by a matchup tomorrow night in Miami. Despite the marquee game against the Big Three on tap, the Knicks better not overlook the Bobcats. To take care of business tonight, the Knicks must focus on turnovers, threes, and rebounds.
A strength of the Bobcats is their ability to take care of the ball. They rank ninth in the league in turnover rate, committing only about 13.5 turnovers per 100 plays. In six of their seven wins, the Bobcats committed fewer turnovers than their opponent. So to get a win tonight in Charlotte, the Knicks must continue to limit giveaways. The return of Jason Kidd, who missed the last four games with lower back spasms, will help their cause, especially since the Knicks will be up against Kemba Walker, who’s tied for sixth in the league with 34 steals. Raymond Felton is also expected to suit up tonight in spite of a hand bruise. He was stellar at point guard on Sunday against the Suns, dishing out seven assists without a single turnover, and must continue to be tonight.
As is often said when underdogs pull off upsets during March Madness, the three-point shot is the great equalizer. This has been the case for Charlotte over their last three games, as they have been able to contend with the Hawks, Sixers, and Blazers, three seemingly superior opponents, by getting hot from downtown. Specifically, Ben Gordon, who’s sixth in the NBA with a 48.6% shooting percentage from three, is an unbelievable 18-for-26 (69.2%) from beyond the arc in the last three games. To prevent an upset tonight, the Knicks must bring Gordon back to reality.
Here’s a paradox: Byron Mullens, the Bobcats’ starting power forward, has the 16th best defensive rebounding rate in the league at 23.1%. However, the Bobcats as a team rank an abysmal 30th in defensive rebounding rate, coming away with only about 70.1% of available defensive rebounds.
Despite the player-team disparity, the defensive rebounding numbers for both Mullens and the Bobcats as a team have been indicative of their wins and losses. When Mullens has eight or more defensive rebounds, the Bobcats are 4-1, with their lone loss coming on Monday in overtime against Portland. Moreover, the Bobcats as a unit are averaging about 32.9 defensive boards in victories, only 0.1 fewer than their opponent. In losses, on the other hand, they’re averaging only 28.3 defensive rebounds, four fewer than their opponent. So, to start their road trip on a positive note, the Knicks must prevent Mullens and the Bobcats from owning the defensive glass tonight.