Battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, the Charlotte Bobcats are showing they can finally beat winning teams.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bobcats look to continue their dominance over the two-time defending NBA champs Monday night when they host a Lakers team trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss.
While Los Angeles (38-17) seems certain to make a sixth straight playoff berth, leading second-place Phoenix by a comfortable margin in the Pacific Division, a second postseason appearance for Charlotte (23-31) is far more in doubt. The Bobcats, who made the playoffs last spring for the first time in the franchise’s seven-year history, are two games back of Indiana for eighth place in the East.
Charlotte didn’t look much like a playoff contender Saturday in Atlanta, trailing 51-29 with less than 3 minutes left in the first half, but rallied to win 88-86 on Stephen Jackson’s(notes) last-second jumper over two defenders. Jackson finished with 32 points to lead the 22-point comeback, the largest in franchise history.
“This team doesn’t quit,” interim coach Paul Silas said. “I’ve got to give credit to these guys because they very easily could have folded and they didn’t.”
The victory over the Hawks marked the Bobcats’ second straight over a winning team, following Monday’s 94-89 victory against East-leading Boston. Prior to that win, Charlotte had lost four straight to teams with winning records, and five of its last six.
Despite their struggles against some of the league’s best, the Bobcats have proven they can beat Los Angeles for years.
Charlotte has won four of five over the Lakers, and is 6-2 against them since the start of the 2006-07 season.
Jackson, who averages a team-best 19.2 points, scored 51 in the two games against Los Angeles last season, while Gerald Wallace(notes) is averaging 17.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in the last four games he was healthy enough to face the Lakers, all wins.
Los Angeles arrives in Charlotte coming off Sunday’s 89-75 loss to Orlando after having won the first four of a seven-game road trip. The Lakers held their fourth opponent in six games to fewer than 90 points, but finished with a season low in scoring and shot 39.3 percent, the first time they finished below 40 percent since losing at San Antonio on Dec. 28.
“Offensively we were really stagnant. Defensively we could have been a little better. But they had 89 points. It was a winnable game as far as points go. But we didn’t put any up,” said Andrew Bynum(notes), who had 17 points.
Bryant has had success against the Bobcats, but it obviously hasn’t led to many wins. The 13-time All-Star is averaging 30.7 points in 11 career games against Charlotte, and this includes a five-point effort last February when he was hobbled by a sprained left ankle.
While Bryant has done his best to carry the Lakers in this series, four-time All-Star center Pau Gasol(notes) hasn’t had as much luck, averaging 12.8 points on 38.3 percent shooting in the last four meetings.