The Charlotte Bobcats haven’t had any problems with their defense this season, but their offense has been another story - at least until recently.
The Bobcats (5-9) have the second-best scoring defense in the league, giving up 88.9 points per game. However, they are averaging 87.5 - second-fewest.
Charlotte has shown signs of improvement offensively since the acquisition of Stephen Jackson(notes), averaging 96.6 points in five games since the trade while scoring 100-plus in the last two, blowing out Indiana and Toronto by double-digit margins.
The Bobcats may have trouble extending their winning streak and their run of impressive offensive displays against the Cavaliers (11-4), though. Charlotte has dropped seven straight to Cleveland, averaging 78.3 points in the last four.
The Cavaliers come into Friday having held opponents to 91.3 points during a three-game winning streak. They gave up more than 100 in each of the previous four games.
They’ll likely have O’Neal back patrolling the paint after he missed six games with a strained left shoulder. O’Neal participated in shootaround Friday morning and coach Mike Brown said he “will probably play” unless he has a setback.
Cleveland beat Detroit 98-88 on Wednesday, limiting the Pistons to 39.2 percent shooting. James, averaging 34.2 points in the last five games, finished with 34 points to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists. He scored 12 of his points in the first quarter, and Cleveland had an 18-point halftime lead.
Detroit pulled within five points with 1:13 remaining, but James made two free throws and Detroit turned the ball over on the next possession.
“LeBron closes games for us by attacking the basket, and that’s what he did,” Brown said. “They were physical with him and he didn’t get all the calls, but he kept attacking.”
James suffered his lowest-scoring game of the season against the Bobcats on Oct. 31, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and nine assists while shooting 5 of 11 in the 90-79 victory. It’s the only time this season he’s been held to fewer than 20 points, although his performance was dominating enough by Charlotte’s standards.
“LeBron got 14, but he could have had 50, the way he played,” Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. “He’s so unselfish.”
James is averaging 26.1 points in his career against Charlotte. The Cavaliers are 16-3 all-time against the Bobcats, and they’ve won their last two trips to Charlotte.
They may be in for a tougher time Friday night if the Bobcats’ offense continues to look as good as it did against the Pacers and Raptors.
Charlotte is coming off a 116-81 victory over Toronto on Wednesday - the fourth time it has scored 100 points this season. Gerald Wallace(notes) scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Jackson added 23 points and six assists as the Bobcats posted the largest margin of victory in franchise history.
Jackson, who was averaging 17.8 points since the trade from Golden State, scored 15 in the first half to help Charlotte take a 52-41 lead at the break.
“We read and we play off each other,” Wallace said of being paired with Jackson. “How he goes is how I go and how I go is how he goes. We pick up for each other.”
Wallace came into Wednesday shooting 37.7 percent, but he connected on 10 of his 20 field-goal attempts against the Raptors. He’s shooting 47.2 percent since Jackson’s arrival.