The Charlotte Bobcats (3-3) will go up against the Atlanta Hawks (3-3) for the first time in the 2013-14 season on Monday night. The Cats’ first match-up with the Hawks this season will feature two returns that should make everyone quite joyful. Tonight Al Jefferson will be returning to the Bobcats starting lineup for the first time since opening night as well as head coach Steve Clifford who missed one game in wake of his recent heart procedure. Can Charlotte knock off Atlanta and get back over .500? These three keys will sure lead them to putting another ‘W’ in the win column.
1. Make Al Jefferson feel comfortable
Now we all know after coming back from injury one can be a little rusty, but the Cats are looking for Jefferson to make an immediate impact. He has missed the past five games due to the ankle injury he suffered in the opener. It is clear that he may be a little shaky in the early going of the game which is quite understandable. With all the money the Bobcats gave Jefferson this offseason they are clearly not looking for bad performances from the star center. A standout performance against none other than Al Horford and the Hawks would be the perfect way to return. If big Al is calling for a post move his teammates need to find him. If big Al is calling for a short open jumper his teammates need to find him. I feel that the entire Bobcats lineup needs to make Jefferson feel that he hasn’t missed a step in his absence and this will help him feel completely comfortable being back in the offense. Rebounding shouldn’t be an issue for him tonight if he is aggressive and strong when guarding Horford. If he can contain him then he could be looking at a very big night. If he looks shaky on defense that is understandable because we all know it is not his strength. If he gets going early watch for him to be the star performer for the Bobcats tonight.
2. Watch out for the Hawks’ balanced attack
Balanced attack? What the heck does that mean? The term is simply implying just how solid the Hawks are at every statistic. Atlanta uses a balance of passing, rebounding, shot blocking, and of course scoring to take down their opponents. Don’t be deceived by their 3-3 record as they easily could stand at a record of 5-1 at the moment. The Hawks have lost two games by only two points. They are currently the No. 7 scoring team in the league (105 points a game) and are also the No. 1 passing team in the league totaling an astounding 28.3 assists a game. Their rebounding ranks 24th, but it is clear that they can still be deadly with their 1-2 punch of their solid big men. They need to contain guys like Paul Millsap and Al Horford on both the scoring and rebounding end. The Cats need to play standout defense on Jeff Teague who is the lead assist man on the team (9.8 a game). If the Bobcats can contain the Hawks and not allow them to pass consistently with overall play solid defense when the Hawks are looking to make quick shots then the Cats could be well on their way to their fourth win of the season.
3. Don’t underestimate the play of Kyle Korver
It seems that whenever people think of the Atlanta Hawks they instantly bring up their three most talked about players. There’s Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and one guy people always underrate — Kyle Korver. The 6-foot-7 shooting guard’s game isn’t always a team’s prime focus, but the Bobcats should take his skill set very seriously. The sharpshooter can instantly change a game with his consistent and high percentage shooting. Yes, Horford, Millsap, and Teague will be their main concerns, but the Cats can not forget about Korver. His three-point shooting abilities can easily change the landscape of a game. He is currently the fourth best scorer on the Hawks roster (14.3 a game) and currently ranks fifth in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (.586). Watch out for Korver early, and if Charlotte isn’t able to contain him then the whole game could change.
Tip off is at 7 P.M. eastern time