The Charlotte Bobcats’ two-game homestand included an ugly loss to the NBA’s worst team and an impressive victory over the league’s best club.
It’s anyone’s guess how they’ll do against an opponent that’s right in the middle.
The Bobcats look to continue their improved road play on a four-game trip that starts Saturday night in Milwaukee, where the Bucks hope to claim a key victory over one of the teams they’re chasing in the Eastern Conference.
After coming out of the All-Star break with a 103-94 home loss to the New Jersey Nets - their second defeat to a team that has just five total wins - the Bobcats responded with their third victory over NBA-leading Cleveland, a 110-93 win on Friday night.
While Stephen Jackson(notes) led Charlotte with 29 points, the club also got a major boost from newcomer Tyrus Thomas(notes), who had 12 rebounds and six blocked shots in his Bobcats debut after getting him from Chicago before Thursday’s trade deadline.
“Coach (Larry) Brown made it a lot easier for me just telling me to go play and have fun and don’t really worry about anything else but playing hard,” said Thomas, who had fallen out of favor with the Bulls.
“With me and Theo now, (Jackson) and Gerald (Wallace) can go back to their aggressive nature on defense and not worry about letting a guy get behind him, because they know they have me and Theo back there,” Thomas added.
Charlotte (27-26) made the moves to help solidify its bid for the first playoff berth in franchise history. The Bobcats sit in eighth place in the East, two games ahead of Milwaukee.
Like Charlotte, the Bucks (25-28) began the second half with a disappointing home loss, falling by 28 to Houston on Wednesday. But they, too, bounced back Friday, earning a 91-85 victory at Detroit.
“I didn’t know any of the plays - they tried to teach me a couple at shootaround, but I forgot them as soon as the game started,” Salmons said. “My teammates were great. They were telling me where I was supposed to go on every play.”
Reserve forward Ersan Ilyasova(notes) added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, which got 53 bench points to help make up for Brandon Jennings’(notes) dismal night. The standout rookie was a season-worst 1 of 13 from the field, continuing his prolonged shooting slump.
“(Friday) was one of those nights where we had guys that were having off nights, but stepped up down the stretch,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “Brandon got a big steal, even when he couldn’t hit a shot.”
Jennings is shooting 32.1 percent from the field since New Year’s Day, dropping his season mark to 37.4 percent - the lowest in the NBA among players averaging at least 15 points.
He has had no such problems against the Bobcats, averaging 26.5 points while shooting at least 50 percent in each of the two meetings. The home team won both, with the Bucks beating Charlotte 95-88 at the Bradley Center on Nov. 20.
The Bobcats are 1-9 in Milwaukee since their inception, and they lost 14 of their first 15 road games this season, but are 6-5 on the road in 2010.