Josh Smith, Amir Johnson

The only people that were happy when the Thunder nickname was decided upon were the Bobcats. Now there could be a serious debate about the worst named team in the league. The game’s at 1PM today and is the second of three on this roadtrip before we finish off in Boston or Monday. You can download the Opening Tip right here.

In our last meeting with Charlotte the second-chance points were 32-0 in their favor and they out-rebounded us 50-37 (18-6). It was one of the most depressing games of the year and made you want to gouge your eyes out. Right now we’re the worst rebounding team in the league at 34.80 and the Bobcats are 27th but still almost 3 rebounds to the good. The ‘Cats are coming off a win against the New Orleans Hornets where they slowed Chris Paul down to build a lead and then played just enough defense to hang on to it.

The problematic matchup here is Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace, two athletic wings that can score with ease against anybody we put on them. Moon was able to hold his Alabama mate Wallace to just 5 points in their only matchup last year and if he can do that again it’d be much appreciated. Then it’s up to Parker to defend Richardson, if he guards him like he guarded Corey Maggette, things will be looking up but if he guards him like he did Joe Johnson, it’ll be over before it starts. Common sense stuff really. Raymond Felton’s quickness advantage on Jose Calderon could come into play if they choose to exploit it. Mitchell has to realize that Calderon’s the far superior player and should use him to expose Felton. I know its not Jose’s nature but he needs to get himself going early in the games as much as others. He’s our second-best scorer and needs his warm-up shots so that he becomes a consistent scoring factor for us. With Parker spending his efforts on Richardson and Moon on Wallace, Calderon becomes the man you look at to get you points.

The chances of a win in Boston are bleak at best so if there’s a game on this trip that we can steal it’s this one right here. A 2-1 roadtrip would’ve been considered a success but at this point you have to settle for a 1-2 if you can get it. This is the front end of a back-to-back so we have to be careful how to use our starters. We don’t want them to be gassed in the second quarter against Boston so it would be wise of Sam Mitchell to get as many minutes out of that bench of his this afternoon. I’d say Kris Humphries should be able to get some minutes against Jared Dudley. If Bargnani ends up guarding Dudley it’ll be a nightmare, Dudley’s a very active player that can make Bargnani look lazy even when he’s trying hard. They have Matt Carroll and we have Jason Kapono so its possible that Kapono will be able to stay on the floor longer without getting burned on defense.

Remember how Bosh was taking Aamir Johnson to school as O’Neal was guarding Rasheed Wallace? Something similar needs to happen here. If O’Neal checks Okafor that’ll leave Dudley or Nazr Mohammed guarding Bosh and that’s an advantage that can work in our favor all night long. They might try putting Gerald Wallace on Bosh for a few minutes here and there but if Bosh is on his game he can easily win that matchup too. I’m looking for CB4 to have another big game. Roko Ukic or Will Solomon could also see some extended playing time as they’ll be matched up with rookie DJ Augustin. I reckon we have an advantage at the backup PG spot, how often does that happen?!?

Matt Devlin’s blogging about the Atlanta loss and he’s outlining some good points such as the Hawks being the first team this year to go over the screen on our pick ‘n rolls thus rendering them ineffective. Like everyone else he’s picking dribble penetration as being our Achilles heel.

We’ll start the live blog at 1PM EST. Gotta love the Sunday afternoon games, this is the first game on CBC. Let’s see what their intro looks like this year, last year was sweet. Let’s go you Raps!