Whats harder to believe? That the Charlotte Bobcats outscored the Washington Wizards 46-24 in the lane Tuesday or that the Bobcats are on an actual winning streak?
One probably doesnt happen without the other. The Bobcats protected the rim and drove with abandon. That was good for a 92-76 victory, the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season this team has won two in a row.
The point guards, Ramon Sessions (21 points) and Kemba Walker (17), assaulted the Wizards defense. Keeping Washington out of the paint was more a group effort, a dramatic change from last season, when Charlotte habitually gave up 50 points in the paint. Credit Brendan Haywood and Byron Mullens with clogging the middle and Tyrus Thomas for taking a second-half charge.
This defense is on the same page, said Walker. Were all taking slides and playing hard.
You couldnt have said that as recently as five days ago, when the Bobcats gave up 111 points on the road to the New Orleans Hornets. Since then coach Mike Dunlap did some rethinking about his defensive approach.
Not putting ourselves as much in harms way, Dunlap described post-game. Not as much pressing, so not as many possessions. And we tweaked our zone.
Whatever that was, it worked the past two games, including a 15-point overtime comeback against the Dallas Mavericks Saturday. At the other end, the Bobcats are driving aggressively. As Dunlap described, he wants this group a rim-and-free throw team first.
Thats good for a 3-3 record entering tonights road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. That doesnt sound like much, but remember its nearly half the victories from last seasons 7-59 debacle.
The Bobcats were a little shorthanded Tuesday Matt Carroll was traded in the afternoon to New Orleans for a yet-to-arrive Hakim Warrick and Ben Gordon missed the game with a family emergency. That placed Sessions into an even bigger role in the backcourt. Pairing Sessions and Walker together at the end of games has been a winning combination so far.
It hasnt caused the defensive meltdown one easily could have predicted.
Sometimes we live our fears as coaches, Dunlap said of playing two point guards together. Well say, Hes giving up three inches (to an opposing shooting guard) when that really doesnt hurt us.
No Wizard particularly hurt the Bobcats Tuesday. Forward Trevor Ariza came closest with 19 points, but this victory was surprisingly decisive. And potentially attitude-changing.
Confidence and a little bit of swagger, Dunlap described, is a long time in coming.