Charlotte Bobcats start rare win streak

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comNovember 14, 2012 

What’s 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 doesn’t 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. “We’re all taking slides and playing hard.’’

You couldn’t 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 harm’s 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.’’

That’s good for a 3-3 record entering tonight’s road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. That doesn’t sound like much, but remember it’s nearly half the victories from last season’s 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 hasn’t caused the defensive meltdown one easily could have predicted.

“Sometimes we live our fears as coaches,’’ Dunlap said of playing two point guards together. “We’ll say, ‘He’s giving up three inches’ (to an opposing shooting guard) when that really doesn’t 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.’’

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