Despite a litany of injuries and a fan base that may very well be rooting for a pick in the lottery in lieu of the 8th and final playoff spot, the Charlotte Bobcats have managed to string together four consecutive wins to remain within one game of the Indiana Pacers.
After losing the head to head matchup with Indiana last week it appeared the season may have ended that night. However, the Bobcats have responded by besting each opponent since, albeit by a combined 12 points.
The most surprising victory came just two nights after the difficult loss to the Pacers, when the team traveled to Boston. Although the Celtics were mired in a ten game stretch that included losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and New Jersey Nets, it seemed unlikely at best that the Bobcats would be able to pick themselves up enough to generate the kind of effort necessary to beat the reigning Eastern Conference champs at home.
Credit Charlotte’s defensive effort or simply good fortune, but Boston’s slump continued to the tune of 43.0 Effective FG% (versus a season average of 52.0%), enabling the Bobcats to escape with a two point win and in turn hold on to the slight hope of making the playoffs (ESPN’s John Hollinger had their odds at 3% after the loss to Indiana).
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Since returning to Charlotte, the Bobcats have beat the equally-reeling New York Knicks, a Milwaukee Bucks team grasping at the thinnest of playoff chances, and the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers coming off an emotionally draining victory over the LeBron James led Miami Heat.
Much like the Celtics, the Bucks and Knicks played below expectations in their respective contests against the Bobcats. The Cavs simply came back to Earth in their narrow 1 point loss.
Do I applaud Charlotte for winning four consecutive games at a point in the season when nearly each game is a must have? Of course. But a closer look inside the numbers points to how fortunate they have been.
As was previously mentioned, Boston shot an astounding 43.0% eFG% from the field against the Bobcats. This was highlighted by a 12-21 clip at the rim (leads the league at 67.8%) and a 3-15 success rate from three point range. Considering Boston ranks 7th in the NBA in overall eFG% and 5th in Offensive Efficiency, their pedestrian figures against the Bobcats were undoubtedly uncharacteristic. One could be quick to point out that this had everything to do with Charlotte’s defensive effort; however, it’s hard to make that argument for a team that’s 16th in Defensive Efficiency.
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Wins against the Knicks and Bucks featured atypical offensive performances for both Bobcats’ opponents once again. The Knicks shot 6-28 from behind the arch and finished with an eFG% of 43.2%, well below their season average of 51.4%.
Give Charlotte credit, they were able to take advantage of the Knicks’ porous defense to the tune of 114 points on 96 possessions. But again, the win was greatly influenced by New York’s off night on the offensive end of the court.
What do I have to say about the win against the Bucks? Of course you know they have a league worst 46.4% eFG%, so I won’t even bother citing their general offensive ineptness as the reason the Bobcats escaped with a win (although they did manage to shoot a staggering 41.7 eFG%, bad even by their standards). I’ll put it this way – 1 in 165. Those are the odds the Bucks would miss their last 10 field goal attempts from the floor, which they accomplished in going scoreless the final 3:51 of the contest. Despite four of the attempts coming at the rim, Milwaukee was unable to convert on any of their opportunities.
End result – Charlotte escapes once again with a one point win.
The odds still remain in the Pacers favor for the 8th and final playoff spot, especially when you consider the Bobcats need to end the season at least one game ahead of Indiana (Pacers own the tie-breaker by way of head-to-head matchups). But on the heels of a week filled with good fortune no team may be better suited to defy the odds than this Bobcats team.