The last time Charlotte and Toronto met, both teams were struggling. The Bobcats hung on late to win in would be their final victory under Larry Brown.
Paul Silas has since transformed Charlotte into a playoff contender, and his Bobcats look to continue their postseason push Tuesday night against the lowly Raptors, who are trying to avoid matching a franchise-worst 11-game road losing streak.
Charlotte (24-32) removed the interim tag from Silas’ title Wednesday and rewarded him with a one-year extension. Silas, who believes the Bobcats have a “very good shot” at making the playoffs for the second straight season, is 15-13 with Charlotte and has the team within one game of eighth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference.
“My main goal when I took this job was to change the atmosphere, change the attitude and make the team more confident,” Silas said. “I think we’ve begun to accomplish those goals.”
In the last two weeks, the Bobcats have recorded victories over several of the league’s best teams in Boston, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Lakers. They were seeking a third victory over Central Division-leading Chicago last Tuesday, but fell 106-94.
Henderson, who averages 6.7 points, scored a career-high 22 against Chicago and has totaled 40 points in his last two games. Five of his 11 double-digit scoring performances have come this month.
The point guard has been bothered lately by a sprained left wrist, but Silas believes the week off for the All-Star break will help him get healthy. Augustin averaged 5.0 points and 25.9 percent shooting in the final four games before the break after averaging 16.7 points in his previous 12.
“With the rest, I think coming back he’s going to be straight ahead again,” Silas said.
Augustin was one of five Bobcats to reach double figures in the last game against the Raptors, a 97-91 home win Dec. 14. Charlotte also won in Toronto 101-96 on Nov. 10, getting 20 points from Stephen Jackson(notes).
The Raptors stayed close the entire way and were within four points with less than 4 minutes to play, but couldn’t pull off the upset and lost for the 17th time in 19 games.
“I thought the energy was good and I thought our guys really competed,” coach Jay Triano said. “That’s the staple that we want to continue to have.”
Bargnani scored 17 of his 38 points against Miami in the fourth quarter and DeRozan finished with 24, but no other Raptor scored more than eight. In the last six games, Bargnani is averaging 29.3 points - 7.4 above his team-leading average - while DeRozan has scored 20.2 points to top his season average by 4.3.
This will be the Raptors’ first road game since losing at Milwaukee on Feb. 8, and they’ll try for their first win away from home since beating Cleveland on Jan. 5. They are one loss from matching the franchise’s longest road skid, set from Dec. 1, 2004-Jan. 14, 2005.