The Charlotte Bobcats and New York Knicks are wrapping up their season series relatively early. Surprisingly, there may be a slight possibility for these downtrodden franchises to meet in the postseason.
Winners of three straight, the Bobcats visit the improving Knicks on Thursday night in a matchup of teams that suddenly have reason for optimism.
Charlotte (15-18) didn’t make the playoffs in any of its first five seasons and that drought appeared likely to continue after a seven-game skid in November gave the Bobcats the East’s third-worst record. However, they have since won 12 of 21, including a 113-108 victory over Chicago on Tuesday night that moved them into seventh place in the conference.
“We know we messed up. We started the season and went on a seven-game losing streak,” forward Gerald Wallace(notes) said. “We know we dug ourselves a hole that we could basically see out of, it wasn’t too deep.
“We had to get this thing turned around and get headed in the right direction before the dirt in that hole starts to sit on the top of our heads.”
The Bobcats’ first win of the season was against the Knicks (14-20), 102-100 in double overtime Oct. 30. The teams then split two games in December.
Though unlikely, a playoff meeting between Charlotte and New York isn’t entirely out of the question. The Knicks, seeking their first playoff appearance in six seasons, have won 11 of 17 since the start of December and are within a game of eighth-place Milwaukee in the East.
“I like the fact that we’re playing better and that we seem like we want to win the games and that we’re competitive in most of the games we’re playing,” team president Donnie Walsh told the Knicks’ official Web site. “But we got a long season to go and we got to keep getting better because everyone else does.”
New York is 7-2 at Madison Square Garden since losing eight of its first nine home games, and its last game there was particularly impressive. The Knicks came within five points of the most lopsided win in franchise history Sunday night, beating Indiana 132-89.
Lee has been complemented nicely by Danilo Gallinari(notes), who added 20 points and eight rebounds Sunday. The 6-foot-10, second-year forward has been a strong perimeter player, making 40.8 percent from 3-point range, but he impressed with a thunderous one-handed dunk over 7-2 Pacers center Roy Hibbert(notes).
Gallinari had 21 points in New York’s 98-94 home win over Charlotte on Dec. 20, the last meeting between the teams. He could again pose a matchup problem for the Bobcats, perhaps drawing the 6-7 Wallace or 6-8 Stephen Jackson(notes).
Wallace scored 32 points Tuesday and is continuing to get more comfortable with Jackson, acquired in a Nov. 16 trade with Golden State.
“We feel real confidence coming into games now because we’re 100 percent on the same page,” said Jackson, averaging 28.0 points in the last four games.
That defeat was part of Charlotte’s 1-14 road record through December, but the Bobcats have beaten Miami and Cleveland in their two road games this month.