The Charlotte Bobcats had their longest winning streak of the season snapped in their last game. Despite the defeat, it was another encouraging sign for a perennially struggling franchise taking steps toward respectability.
After suffering a close loss to a championship contender, the Bobcats look to rebound with their fourth win in five games Wednesday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
Charlotte (16-25) won a season-high three straight from Jan. 10-17, notching quality victories over Detroit and Portland in that stretch. The run came to an end with an 86-84 loss to San Antonio on Monday, but the Bobcats were able to see the bright side in the narrow defeat against one of the league’s elite teams.
“For a team that’s going through some transition right now, it’s a good sign,” Bobcats guard Raja Bell said. “If we can compete like that every night, maybe knock down a few more shots, hit some free throws, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win a lot of games.”
Bell scored a season-high 25 points Monday, and Charlotte led by as many as nine points before getting outscored 23-16 in the fourth quarter.
Though they let that game slip away, the Bobcats are still 9-7 since a seven-game losing streak dropped them to 7-18 on Dec. 15 - an impressive stretch for a franchise that hasn’t finished with more than 33 wins in any of its first four seasons.
The Grizzlies (11-29) have been even worse than the Bobcats in each of the last two seasons, finishing with 22 wins and at the bottom of the Southwest Division each time.
Unlike Charlotte, though, Memphis doesn’t appear to have a good chance of breaking out of its funk in 2008-09. The Grizzlies have lost six straight and 14 of 16 to fall further out of contention. They were outscored 20-10 in the fourth quarter of an 87-79 loss to Detroit on Monday.
“I thought we played much better as a unit. We played tougher. We rebounded the ball. We played aggressive,” Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said. “Unfortunately down the stretch they got some better looks than we did. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole. We missed a couple of layups and wide open shots here and there.”
Rudy Gay was part of the problem again. He was 7-for-16 from the field for 15 points Monday, and is averaging 10.0 points while shooting 33.3 percent (13-for-39) over his last three games.
“It’s tough,” said Gay, who averaged 20.1 points and shot 46.2 percent in a breakthrough second season in 2007-08. “I always think I can help the team more. Nobody wants to settle, so I always think I can do more.”
Gay and the Grizzlies were routed in their first meeting with the Bobcats this season. Boris Diaw had 26 points, Emeka Okafor had 25 and Gerald Wallace added 22 as Charlotte shot a franchise-record 65.8 percent from the field in the 112-83 road victory Dec. 19.
The Bobcats have won two of the teams’ last three meetings after dropping the first six.