Tonight the Bobcats will host the upstart Philadelphia 76ers. Upstart? In a way, yes. Remember, this is the team everyone thought would break their own record for futility in a season. Yet, to this point, they're 7-12 and have been able to get things done offensively and on the glass. Both teams tonight have actually caught some people by surprise with the Bobcats currently ranked eighth in the conference and the Sixers ranked ninth. Tonight's game will mark the first meeting between these two teams this season, so let's take a look at some key points about tonight's matchup.
The Bobcats are currently a top-five defensive team in the league, and the Sixers, well, they're dead last. Being a young team it's not surprising that they would struggle in this area as many young teams do, but that's what has made their fast start so unforeseen. The Sixers also play at the fastest pace in the league, which is almost the exact opposite of the Bobcats who have preferred a more deliberate pace to their games. So, the fact that Philadelphia has earned extra possessions is also going to affect their defensive rankings because their opponents see more opportunities for points than usual, not just themselves. On top of all of that, the Sixers have taken the 11th-most attempts from deep this season, but are a bottom-five team in three point efficiency. The idea there will be to turn them into a jumpshooting team tonight and make them beat you with their own weakness.
Before I fall into a "People in glass houses..." argument with the Sixers' last-ranked defense, I have to mention that the Bobcats are dead last in the league in points per game scored, field goal percentage, three point percentage and 28th in free throw percentage. Which, you know, isn't exactly advantageous, and there are several players who have gotten off to a slow shooting start this season, yet that won't help unless they come out of their slumps tonight. The Bobcats want to avoid helping the Sixers out on defense by working to get good shots and continue to get to the line for easy points.
Alright, the Sixers don't play defense, but they can run. Likewise, the Bobcats play some defense, but they don't get out and run as much. For the Bobcats, the key to their success may be found on the boards, but that won't be so easy as just doing it. No, the Bobcats may be the number one team in the league in Defensive Rebounding percentage, but the Sixers are right behind them at number six. Both teams are average offensive rebounding teams and second chance points will also be important, but getting those defensive rebounds and controlling the tempo of the game will be crucial. I mean, it's not beneficial for a team that likes to put teams through the meat grinder to allow it to turn into a track meet and play the other team's game.
There are a lot of ways that tonight's game could wind up being a little messy, but this could also be a sneaky fun game since both teams have gotten off to better-than-expected starts and are actually good at certain things. Both teams will be without one of their best players since Michael Carter-Williams will be out with a swollen knee and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be out 4-6 weeks with his broken hand. Man, there sure are a lot of Michaels with hyphenated names...