The Charlotte Bobcats have won six in a row for the first time in franchise history. They’re hoping their hot streak will ultimately lead to something else they’ve yet to experience - the playoffs.
Extending their run to seven games Tuesday night won’t be easy, as the Bobcats visit a Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs team on the verge of its 12th consecutive postseason appearance.
Charlotte (28-35) lost nine of 12 from Jan. 28-Feb. 24 to fall five games out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth playoff spot. Stunningly, the Bobcats have since become the East’s hottest team, winning six straight for the first time in their five-year existence and moving into a six-team logjam for the conference’s final postseason spot.
“We’re just getting better right now and more consistent,” forward Boris Diaw said after scoring 22 points in a 114-105 victory at New York on Saturday. “We’ve been able to play a lot of good games in a row and we try to keep going.”
Charlotte’s surge has been due in large part to excellent shooting. The Bobcats are averaging 51.3 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from 3-point range during the winning streak.
Charlotte’s starters have played key roles in the recent turnaround. Each is shooting 50 percent from the floor or better in the last six games, and four of the five have topped the team in scoring for at least one game during the streak.
The one who hasn’t - Diaw - has averaged a team-high 18.0 points.
“We are starting to come together and understanding the concepts and the roles on this team … and understanding what the coaches are looking for and what they are expecting from each guy on the team,” forward Gerald Wallace said. “We are starting to play together.”
The Bobcats were a long way from such offensive balance when they hosted the Spurs (42-20) on Jan. 19. Bell had a game-high 25 points, but Charlotte shot 36.3 percent and lost 86-84 after leading by five going into the final quarter.
That was one of 29 wins San Antonio has recorded in the 38 games that Manu Ginobili’s been in the lineup. Ginobili, who missed the first 12 games of the season while recovering from left ankle surgery, has also sat out the past 11 contests after having a stress reaction in his right ankle.
He’s expected to miss at least another week, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has shown throughout the season that he’s willing to err on the side of caution with Ginobili and fellow veteran stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Parker shouldered the load in San Antonio’s latest game, scoring a game-high 30 points in a 103-98 home win over Phoenix on Sunday.
Parker has scored 30 or more in four of the Spurs’ last eight games.
“Tony’s been carrying us for a while now,” Popovich said. “Showing confidence in his shot, running the team, coming down to the other end playing great D. He’s been real special.”
Parker was 3-for-11 for 13 points in the Spurs’ January visit to Charlotte, but he did have 10 assists, typically a good sign for Popovich’s team. San Antonio is 16-2 when Parker has at least eight assists.
The Bobcats’ lone victory against the Spurs in nine tries came at San Antonio on Nov. 15, 2006 - a 95-92 overtime win despite Duncan and Parker combining for 49 points.