The Charlotte Bobcats will go up against Kevin Love the Minnesota Timberwolves for only the second time this season. The last time the two teams went up against each other the Cats fell to the Wolves by a very significant margin. Minnesota pulled away early in the second quarter and won 119-92. It was one of Charlotte’s most lopsided victories this season. Here are three keys to making this second chance match up a victory.
1. Stay on top of Minnesota’s big-man combo.
When the Timberwolves come to mind in any NBA fan’s mind, it’s always one player, and that man is Kevin Love. The dominant power forward’s immense rebounding and scoring abilities have the power to change the whole tempo of the game. Though Love is indeed a phenom, he is not invincible. The 7-foot-0 center Nikola Pekovic was the Charlotte Bobcats’ star of the night the last time they met the Timberwolves.
He scored a game-high 26 points and clearly has Al Jefferson’s number within the paint. The Cats’ defense had limited answers to a combined 45 points and 20 rebounds by the Pekovic/Love duo. Big Al must play better on ball defense as well as defense within the paint if he wants to suppress the duo’s scoring power.
If even one of them is taken out of the equation, it will be hard for Minnesota to get closer to a much-needed win. Josh McRoberts stepping in for defense on Love means he needs to be pressured well. McRoberts has lacked on the defensive end this year, but this game Steve Clifford will need his best effort. If not, he has the clear ability to take over the game.
2. Use Michael Kidd Gilchrist’s defense to its maximum potential.
When people think of Michael Kidd Gilchrist‘s defense this year, the only thing that comes to mind is LeBron James‘s 61- point effort against him. Though that might have been a saddening performance for MKG, it doesn’t show how beneficial his solid defense has been to the Cats this season. What about when he shut down Paul George for a career-low two points? Bad games happen. Haven’t the Bobcats used his successful defensive game to their benefit on a consistent basis?
Well in the one matchup the Wolves had with Charlotte this season, MKG was not active. He was still nursing his broken wrist after sitting out 18 prior games. If the Cats can capitalize early using his ability to shut down easy shots and offensive movement, then there is no telling how easily the defense will flow. Kidd-Gilchrist has the ability to be one of the main players on the defensive side, and if he strikes early the Cats could easily alter the Timberwolves’ plans.
3. Treat the game as if it were in the playoffs.
Now we all know were not going to be able to see a Timberwolves vs. Bobcats NBA finals anytime soon, but this game has serious implications for both teams. Its around that time of the season and both franchises are looking to hop up in the conference rankings. While the Cats are now chasing the fifth and sixth seeds, the Wolves are looking to get back in the hunt.
Minnesota will be firing early because every game matters in this stretch. Charlotte cant afford to fall behind in catching up to the higher seeds to avoid a more treacherous first round match up. This game will needed to be taken seriously, because the Timberwolves will be playing to win.