Gametime: 7:00 p.m. EST
Charlotte now probably has a better shot at surpassing the Washington Wizards, whom the Bobcats play twice more and are just 3.5 games behind. Regardless, if the Bobcats have any hope of placing out of the bottom two slots in the playoffs, and avoiding a first round matchup with either Miami or Indiana, they've got to make a very strong run through these last 11 contests.
Fortunately, games against these teams are even more valuable, so a win over the Nets or the Wizards are almost must-haves.
Facing the Nets for the second time in a week could prove beneficial considering the Bobcats played well enough to win in Brooklyn last week, and now get the veteran team in the comfy confines of Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte, where they're 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Nets are 5-5 in their last 10 road games, so not quite the force they've been at home (10-0).
The Bobcats will again be coming off a tough loss this time after a well-fought, if not particularly well-executed game on offense, to the Houston Rockets.
Charlotte failed to get the offensive output against the Rockets, with bench scoring from Gary Neal, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Luke Ridnour pretty much absent. Those three scored a combined seven points. CDR scored seven points. And although Cody Zeller provided 10 points off the bench, Anthony Tolliver didn't even play.
Charlotte will need to regain some punch off the bench and keep a balanced attack by scoring efficiently. Adding offense makes Charlotte a much more dangerous team when playing as well as it does on defense.
Once again they'll need to focus on the big guns from the Nets, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and, yes, Paul Pierce. Pierce tortured the Bobcats late last week hitting big shots late. If Charlotte can make him work throughout the game maybe they can count on father time coming in for the knockout punch. But I wouldn't rely on it. Pierce is still rather truthful.
Williams has been a very tough cover for Kemba Walker historically. Williams was in the discussion of best point guards in the NBA not too long ago, and when he's playing like that, he's a tough cover for anyone. Walker's stature just makes it that much more difficult for him, so making sure he protects the ball and contributes when he has a chance will be huge for Charlotte.
Stopping Johnson (last week's Eastern Conference Player of the Week) from scoring, particularly late in the possessions when he's in his comfort zone isolating, will go a long way towards the Bobcats getting the win.
Inside, Andray Blatche and his basket full of moves will need to be contained. Blatche has the ability to step out and even make some moves off the dribble. Keep an eye on him and making things as uncomfortable as possible as well as keeping Mason Plumlee of the boards is something the Bobcats will have to do. The rookie from Duke is quietly having a very nice rookie season. Cody Zeller's play of late will remind fans of what Plumlee has been doing most of the season.
Last week's game has some playoff feel to it, and the closer the end of the season gets the more these games will feel that way. Charlotte realistically needs a win to have any hope of getting out of seventh place.