The Atlanta Hawks haven't done much lately to help their playoff chances in the wide-open Eastern Conference. The Charlotte Bobcats, meanwhile, have used a season-high win streak to unexpectedly pull into the race.
The Bobcats look to match a franchise record with their fourth straight win when they host the struggling Hawks in a Southeast Division matchup Friday night.
Charlotte (22-39) lost 12 of 13 games from Jan. 30 -Feb. 29, but has won its first three contests in March. The Bobcats have won four straight twice since they began play in 2004-05, most recently from Feb. 14-23 of last season.
"There's something good going on," Bobcats guard Matt Carroll told the team's official Web site. "We've been playing well lately. Our chemistry is really good and we're playing well together."
Charlotte's recent success has put added pressure on Atlanta (24-35), which has dropped 11 of 14 to fall into ninth place in the East. The Hawks still have a three-game advantage over the Bobcats, but there are three other teams not in playoff position that have records at least as good as Charlotte's.
Atlanta expected to end its struggles when it acquired Mike Bibby during the All-Star break, but the Hawks have won just three of 10 games with their new point guard in the lineup. Bibby scored 21 points Wednesday, but was overmatched by New Orleans' Chris Paul in Atlanta's 116-101 loss.
"It's tough to overcome something like that," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said after Paul recorded 23 points and 18 assists. "They made shots."
The Bobcats made a lot of shots in their last outing as well, recording their highest point total since Jan. 14 by beating Golden State 118-109 on Wednesday. Jason Richardson, who played his first six seasons with the Warriors, had a season-high 42 points with five 3-pointers against his former club.
"This wasn't a revenge game. It wasn't anything personal," said Richardson, averaging 32.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists during the Bobcats' win streak. "It was just a game that we wanted to win."
Charlotte is averaging 112.3 points and beating teams by an average of 13.6 during its run.
"I think we are making strides," coach Sam Vincent said. "Offensively we are moving the ball and we have a lot of guys contributing."
One player that has not contributed is Gerald Wallace, who has missed six games after suffering his fourth concussion in the last four years. Wallace, who led the team with 20.6 points per game when he got hurt, won't play Friday, but could return within a week.
"He's feeling a lot better. The headaches are gone," Vincent said. "I think it's just a matter of him getting the final clearance to get back involved in full contact. From there we'll get him in some practices and let him and see how he responds to that. If he clears that well then we'll get him back to playing."
The Bobcats have had more success versus the Hawks than against any other team, winning 10 of the 15 meetings. Charlotte is no more than one game over .500 against any other opponent.
The Bobcats dropped the teams' first two matchups of the season, but won 100-98 in overtime Feb. 13.
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