The New Orleans Hornets have developed a swagger against inferior teams of late. The Charlotte Bobcats, meanwhile, are growing confident in matchups with the NBA's best clubs.
After a successful opening to their longest homestand of the season, the Hornets look to extend a 10-game winning streak against opponents currently below .500 when they face the Bobcats on Friday night.
New Orleans (26-12) won the opener of their five-game homestand Wednesday night, beating Seattle 123-92 to improve to 17-2 against teams that currently have sub-.500 records. The Hornets have won three straight overall and are battling for the best record in the Western Conference.
"We are earning the right to look at games as games we should win," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "No disrespect to those teams, but we just feel we are a better basketball team than a lot of other teams right now and we play a better team game. There is nothing wrong with us having a little confidence in ourselves."
The Hornets now face a Bobcats team they are 3-0 against at home all-time. New Orleans won the clubs' first meeting this season, 99-85 at New Orleans Arena on Dec. 28.
Charlotte (15-23), however, has won four of its last six - all against teams above it in the East standings. Victories over New Jersey, Boston, Denver and Orlando - along with overtime losses to Cleveland and Detroit - in the past nine days have made the Bobcats more sure of themselves.
"It's very satisfying but we still have a long way to go," first-year Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said after a 99-93 win over Southeast Division-leading Orlando on Wednesday night. "We're 15-23. If we were .500 then we'd be getting close to being happy."
A victory over New Orleans would give the Bobcats three straight wins for the first time this season.
Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace is averaging just 10.7 points in 10 games against the Hornets, but his recent surge has sparked the Bobcats' run. He's averaging 32.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals in his last four games, including a 36-point, 14-rebound performance versus the Magic.
Wallace leads Charlotte with 21.6 points and 2.1 steals a contest, even without a strong distributor at point guard. The Bobcats have struggled at that position all season, with current starter Jeff McInnis posting 3.9 points and 4.0 assists per game.
By contrast, New Orleans boasts one of the league's top point guards in Chris Paul, who's third in the NBA with 10.4 assists per game. He had 12 points and 11 assists against the Sonics as three Hornets recorded double-doubles.
David West finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 21 boards.
Paul and Chandler have had double-doubles in the same game 12 times this season, and the Hornets have won all of those contests.
"When we move the ball and get everybody involved, we're a much better team," said New Orleans swingman Peja Stojakovic, who had a game-high 23 points Wednesday. "It's much harder to guard us."
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