Charlotte Hornets

March 20, 2013

Bobcats win second in a row

It’s the team’s first back-to-back victories since the 6-4 start in November.

Three months, 58 games and four starting power forwards later, the Charlotte Bobcats have a winning streak again.

It had been that long since the Bobcats were 6-4 in November and beat the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in back-to-back games. Maybe the trick is scheduling the Raptors in Charlotte, because the Bobcats beat Toronto 107-101 Wednesday.

That, combined with Monday’s 119-114 win over the Washington Wizards, became the first time in forever that the word “streak’’ wasn’t the source of embarrassment for the 16-52 Bobcats.

That the Bobcats did this at the Raptors’ expense is no surprise; the Bobcats have won five in a row against them at Time Warner Cable Arena. But plenty else had to happen in the interim to set this up.

Coach Mike Dunlap’s churn through the rotation has been particularly acute in regard to the power forward position. Of late he’s hit on starting newcomer Josh McRoberts and using Byron Mullens off the bench – sometimes in place of McRoberts, sometimes alongside him.

While these are unconventional big men – Mullens’ best skill is outside shooting and McRoberts is primarily a passer – it’s worked of late. Mullens scored a game-high 25 points Wednesday and McRoberts did a little of everything, with 12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.

The best indicator the Bobcats are a bit more functional is the assists. Over those two victories, 53 of Charlotte’s 77 baskets were assisted. Dunlap said that’s in part to McRoberts’ ability to swing the ball in the high post from strong side to weak side of the opposing defense.

It doesn’t hurt that new backup point guard Jannero Pargo has made 10 of his 18 3-point attempts since joining the team last week.

“He’s been great for us,” McRoberts said of Pargo, “through his professionalism, the things he knows and his ability to take and make big shots.”

The Bobcats didn’t just roll through the Raptors Wednesday, trailing by 11 in the first half. But they looked the deeper team, with the bench outscoring Toronto’s reserves 54-13.

With the recent additions, Dunlap said he has options now that ease some of the margin for error.

“We’re more versatile than we’ve been,” Dunlap said. “Josh can play (center or power forward) and Byron can be a (power forward or center). Jeff Adrien didn’t play tonight, and he was a contributor earlier.”

Mullens was playing little for a stretch after starring at mid-season. Dunlap didn’t need to scold to get him back on track.

“I knew what I was doing wrong. I didn’t need to hear it from him,” Mullens said. “My rebounding was down, I went 2-of-21. It was a slump.”

And now it’s not.

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