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Raptors-Bobcats Preview

AP - Sports

With four victories in their last five games, the Charlotte Bobcats have nearly matched their win total from 2011-12.

They can already surpass last season's home win total on Wednesday night when the struggling Toronto Raptors try to avoid a fourth consecutive road loss in this series.

Since opening 1-3, the Bobcats have lost just once, 94-87 to Memphis on Saturday when they opened a four-game homestand.

Charlotte (5-4) surely wasn't expected to challenge for a playoff spot after finishing 7-59 last season and with the worst winning percentage at league history at .106, but there's no telling how successful rookie coach Mike Dunlap's team can be if it continues to play stout defense and win close games.

After ranking 27th last season with 100.9 points allowed per game, the Bobcats are holding teams to 99.0. They've limited their last five opponents to 98 or fewer - the team's longest such stretch since an eight-game run Oct. 30-Nov. 13, 2010 - after rallying from 11 down in the fourth quarter of Monday's 102-98 victory over Milwaukee.

The Bobcats improved to 4-2 at home and 4-0 in games decided by four or fewer points.

"They compete every night and they're not going to roll over," said Bucks swingman Mike Dunleavy. "When you do that in this league you're going to win more than seven games. They're going to blow that mark away this year obviously. They're headed in the right direction.''

With a victory on Wednesday, the Bobcats will move past last season's home win total. Charlotte lost its last 14 there in 2011-12 following a 107-103 victory over the Raptors on March 17.

Exactly one month earlier, the Bobcats snapped a 16-game skid with a 98-91 victory at Toronto.

The Raptors (3-8) arrive in Charlotte following Tuesday's 106-98 loss at Philadelphia. Point guard Kyle Lowry had 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists off the bench after missing six games with a foot injury, but Toronto was outscored 33-18 in the fourth quarter to fall to 1-5 on the road.

"We had control of the game and we've got to make basketball plays,'' said coach Dwane Casey, whose team is off to its worst 11-game start since opening 2-9 two years ago.

The Raptors have to get better on the defensive end. They're yielding 100.4 points per game - 101.5 on the road - and opponents are shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range after the 76ers hit 9 in 24 attempts.

Bobcats guards Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions haven't been a big threat from beyond the arc, hitting a combined 9 for 44, but they're averaging 20.2 and 17.2 points, respectively, during the 4-1 run.

Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is scoring 13.8 points per game with 7.8 rebounds during this stretch, while Byron Mullens is adding 13.0 points and a team-best 10.6 boards per game.

DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani totaled 46 points on Tuesday when the Raptors opened a stretch of 10 of 12 on the road. The two combined for 50 points in a 92-87 home win April 3 that ended a six-game slide in this series.

All of Toronto's victories have come on the second night of back-to-backs. The Raptors dropped 16 of 20 such games last season.

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