I figured I would start this preview off talking about how the Charlotte Bobcats are not to be taken lightly.
Oh, for years you could. Dumb draft picks, trades where they were constantly giving away the best player in the deal, and an inability to use one of the greatest coaches of all time (Larry Brown) made Charlotte a laughingstock.
But this isn't the same Bobcats squad from years' past. They brought in a guy who's turned into a pretty good coach in Steve Clifford. They signed Al Jefferson to a deal that was panned in the offseason but has turned into a steal. They gave their young guys time to develop instead of sending them away.
And the result of all those moves is a 34-36 team that is a lock for the playoffs and gives up the fourth fewest points per game.
The Bobcats have wins over Golden State (twice), the Clippers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Pacers, and Blazers. Outside of the return game against the Warriors, all of those big wins have come at home. Unsurprisingly, the Bobcats are a formidable 20-15 at home.
I distinctly remember the Rockets' game here last year. Houston came in on a 7-game losing streak and the sky was falling. Somehow, the Rockets pulled out an ugly (repeat: UGLY) win in North Carolina to head back in the positive direction. Meanwhile, these teams met on opening night for Houston and the Bobcats were 100% in the game until the closing minutes.
All of that is to say, this Bobcats team is to be feared.
Tip off is at 6:00pm CST.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Kemba Walker
Cardiac (Kardiac?) Kemba has the ability to torch anyone, and Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin will have their hands full with the shifty guard out of UConn.
Speaking of Lin, he seems to be playing much better since the Pacers game earlier this month. Hopefully he keeps this up.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Gerald Henderson
In their win over the Blazers, Henderson went 23/8/5 on 8-11 shooting in 29 minutes.
Harden went 37/11 on 9-15 shooting and 14-14 from the free throw line in 29 minutes.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
He may have suffered some regression this season, but Machine Gun Gilchrist is going to be a good player in this league, and could absolutely turn into a Tony Allen/Andre Iguodala hybrid if he works at it.
At least, that's what my Bobcats fan friend tells me. I agree.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Josh McRoberts
Someone in the comments recently said they thought McBob would be a perfect player for the Spurs.
I couldn't agree more.
McRoberts has a player option for next season, and with the way he's playing he stands to make more than the $2.8 million he's owed next season. He's like another Boris Diaw, and I could totally see him signing with the Spurs for a super team-friendly deal that will piss me off. Like 2 years, $6 million or something dumb like that. Stupid Spurs. Even in hypothetical situations things seem to work out for them.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Al Jefferson
"WHOA AK! Giving Jefferson the advantage? I know Dwight Howard may or may not play, and that even if he plays he'll be rusty. And I know that Omer Asik may not be able to stay in front of Jefferson. And I know that Jefferson is averaging 25/10 on 57% shooting in March. But...wait what was I saying?"
Rockets: Jeremy Lin, Omri Casspi, Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Jordan Hamilton, Francisco Garcia
Bobcats: Cody Zeller (The Big Handsome! The GaZeller!), Bismack Biyombo (always plays the Rockets well), Luke Ridnour (ditto), Chris Douglas-Roberts
Prediction: Rockets win a tight one, 93-90.