The Charlotte Bobcats sit at 9-11 after the first 20 games of the season, and have been hanging right around .500 since the season began. With the Eastern Conference being as terrible as it has been after the first quarter of the season – only three teams boast winning records – the Bobcats have a real chance to make the playoffs if they can just finish the season with a record close to .500.
However, their chances did take a hit when starting small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fractured his left hand last week. The former 1st round pick is expected to miss the next month, if not longer. When a team is built around good defense, like the Bobcats are, losing their best defensive player is obviously not ideal. Second year forward Jeffery Taylor will have to make an impact in his new role as a starter. He scored twenty points in his first start since MKG’s injury against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this week.
The Charlotte Bobcats have nine games remaining before taking a three day mini-break around Christmas. This stretch of games, which starts tomorrow at home against the Golden State Warriors, will be huge in deciding how good these Bobcats truly are.
Six of the nine games are in Charlotte, including games against the Warriors (12-9), Orlando Magic (6-13), Los Angeles Lakers (10-9), Sacramento Kings (5-13), Utah Jazz (4-18) and the Milwaukee Bucks (4-16). The Bobcats play three road games in this span – the Indiana Pacers (18-2), Toronto Raptors (6-12) and Detroit Pistons (10-10).
When looking at these nine games, it appears to be a soft spot in the schedule, with only three of the nine games coming against teams over .500, and two of those games are at home. With MKG sidelined, this is a perfect opportunity to rack up some wins against lesser competition in a period of time when the Bobcats are missing one of their key contributors.
Of the six games against teams with a record of .500 or below in this nine game stretch, four of them take place in Charlotte, including the Bucks who the Bobcats have already blown out twice this season and the Jazz, who currently have the worst record in the NBA.
It seems obvious that anything less than a 5-4 record over the next nine games would be highly disappointing for Charlotte, even when taking into consideration they are missing Kidd-Gilchrist. In order to win a majority of these games, the Bobcats are going to have to stay sound defensively, without their best defensive player, and point guard Kemba Walker and center Al Jefferson are going to have to carry the load offensively.
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Speaking of Jefferson, he has been everything the Charlotte front office and fan base could have asked for when they signed him this offseason. As long as he stays healthy and continues putting up numbers around the 16 points and nine rebounds he is currently averaging, the Bobcats will have a shot to lurk in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Actually, it would be realistic to think Jefferson’s numbers could even start to increase as he finally seems to be fully healthy from his sprained ankle earlier in the season.
On defense, head coach Steve Clifford continues to instill his strict defensive principles into his young team. The Bobcats continue to lead the league in fewest fast break points allowed, while allowing the second fewest points per game and ranking in the top half of the league in rebounding. If the Bobcats continue to be a top-five defense in the NBA, there is no reason to believe there would be eight better teams in the lowly Eastern Conference, even if the offense is still struggling a tad.
The point is, when sitting on the couch on Christmas Day watching the plethora of NBA games on television, Bobcats’ fans should check the standings. If Charlotte has a record within a game or so of a .500 record, fans should feel positive about the direction that this particular team is headed, especially when this defensive-minded team gets their defensive stalwart back.
Read more news, rumors and opinion on our Charlotte Bobcats team page.