Coming off one of the most impressive wins in team history, the Charlotte Bobcats look to pull off what would be a stunning home-and-home sweep when they take on the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The second-year Bobcats recorded the most points and largest margin of victory in franchise history on Wednesday in a 122-90 rout of the Pacers, who are among the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. It was also the first time the Bobcats beat Indiana, having been swept 3-0 in last season’s series.
“I told the guys that we better be ready,” Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “We’re going up and playing against a great basketball team that is playing with that pride and has reason to.
“That’s the one thing about the NBA, you can enjoy the moment, but you have to move on immediately.”
Guard Kareem Rush, who was averaging 9.5 points, hit 12-of-15 from the field and scored a career-high 35 points to help Charlotte snap a five-game losing streak.
“The pressure was there to keep taking shots but when you’re not making them you don’t want to take as many,” said Rush, who made 6-of-7 3-pointers. “But tonight was one of those nights and hopefully this will boost my confidence where I want to go out there and take tough shots.”
Rookie Raymond Felton got his first NBA start, finishing with 18 points and 10 assists in place of injured point guard Brevin Knight. Felton had five of the team’s 17 steals—Indiana had four—and Charlotte leads the NBA with 12.8 steals per game.
It’s uncertain if Knight, who sat out with knee tendinitis, will be able to return for this game. Bobcats leading scorer Gerald Wallace will miss another week with a wrist injury, and forward Melvin Ely (shin) also is expected to sit out Friday.
While Charlotte is coming off its best performance of the season, Indiana was left very frustrated by its second straight loss. The 90 points the Pacers scored Wednesday matched a season low.
“We shouldn’t even get paid for this game,” said forward Jermaine O’Neal, who had 17 points and eight rebounds. “I’m not trying to take anything away from the Bobcats, they played a heck of a game, but we feel like we are at another level. I felt like we were the expansion team tonight. I’m thoroughly embarrassed.”
Indiana entered the game averaging 15.2 turnovers, but committed a season-high 26 against Charlotte.
“We have some soul-searching to do,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We have to play these guys again (Friday), which is not going to be any fun based on what I saw tonight. But we don’t have much time so we have to get the wheels back in line.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 17): Bobcats - 4th place, 2 1/2 GB, Southeast Division. Pacers - 4th place, 3 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bobcats - Wallace, 16.2 ppg; Okafor, 8.9 rpg; Knight, 7.0 apg. Pacers - Artest, 22.6 ppg; O’Neal, 9.1 rpg; Jamaal Tinsley, 5.0 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Bobcats, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 16; Bobcats, 122-90. At Charlotte, N.C., Okafor had 20 points and 12 rebounds to complement the strong backcourt performance of Rush and Felton.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bobcats - 1-3 on the road; Pacers - 2-1 at home.