The Charlotte Bobcats have won a season-high four straight, a streak that’s vaulted them into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
There’s little doubt who they would least like to see in a potential first-round playoff series.
The Bobcats have lost their last four games against the Boston Celtics by an average of nearly 27 points - setting record scoring lows in two of them - and they’ll try to snap a five-game overall skid in the series Friday night at TD Garden.
Charlotte (15-21) has played like a completely different team since Larry Brown was fired Dec. 22. The Bobcats averaged an East-high 17.4 turnovers and 91.8 points - second fewest in the league - during their 9-19 start, but have cut their giveaways to 14.9 per game and averaged 98.4 points in going 6-2 since interim coach Paul Silas took over.
They had a season-low seven turnovers Wednesday against Chicago. The Bobcats raced out to a 36-22 lead after one quarter and held on to win 96-91 behind 22 points, 12 assists and just one turnover from D.J. Augustin(notes).
The third-year point guard attributed the performance to a pep talk from team owner Michael Jordan.
“The other day MJ got mad at me for my five turnovers. He told me never to do that again and I took it to heart tonight,” Augustin said. “I tried to make smart plays.”
Augustin has made plenty since Silas took over. He’s averaged 19.9 points and shot 49.5 percent in the last eight games while posting a 4.07 assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Bobcats are 11-6 when Augustin scores at least 15 points.
Throw in the return of Gerald Wallace(notes), who had 14 points after missing nine of the previous 11 games with an ankle injury, and Charlotte is suddenly looking like a potentially dangerous opponent in the playoffs - should it get there.
“I think it’s all starting to come together,” Wallace said.
The Bobcats better hope a change in coaches led to a change in luck against the Celtics (29-9), however. Boston has overwhelmed Charlotte in the past four meetings, holding it to a franchise-low point total in a 92-59 win at TD Garden on Oct. 28, 2009, then limiting the Bobcats to a franchise home low in a 93-62 win Dec. 11.
Augustin went scoreless on eight shots and had four turnovers in the most recent loss, which Wallace called “embarrassing to us and our families.”
If the Bobcats keep playing well, they could see Boston in the first round as the seventh or eighth seed. The Celtics, in a battle with Miami atop the conference, avoided a third straight loss by beating Sacramento 119-95 on Wednesday.
“Paul knew last game that none of us, as a group, came with the right mental approach,” coach Doc Rivers said. “And that’s what leaders have to do, and that’s what he did.”
The Celtics haven’t needed many great individual performances to beat the Bobcats lately, but they got 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks from backup center Semih Erden(notes) in the 31-point victory last month.
“He was great,” Rivers said. “He just played with energy and played hard. And we’ve just got to get him to keep doing that.”