By Scott Lauer
April 10, 2014
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Bobcats. His column will appear on bobcats.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bobcats organization.
The splendid progression of the Bobcats continues, as they picked up a fifth-straight win last night in Washington (their second-straight overtime win on the road) to move into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. Most people in the game would obviously agree with the notion that having momentum heading into the playoffs is important. Head Coach Steve Clifford supports that assertion, as told me during last night’s radio pregame interview, and that’s why we’re all excited about the postseason run which commences in just over a week. Since the All-Star break, the Bobcats have the seventh best record in the league at 17-8. Taking that further back, since January 10, the team is 23-13, tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference with just one more loss than the Bulls have suffered. Miami, Brooklyn and Toronto have also dropped only 13 games since that date.
Could the Bobcats break their franchise-record of seven straight wins by next week? Could they even run the table to end the regular season, which would put them on a nine-game streak? It wouldn’t be alarming. They have two struggling teams up next (in Boston on Friday and home to Philadelphia on Saturday). Next Monday they’re in Atlanta - a tough matchup for the team - but the Hawks are sub .500. Charlotte wraps up the season at home next Wednesday against Chicago, a team currently riding a six-game winning streak and tied with Toronto for the No. 3 slot.
There’s also drama brewing atop the conference, as Indiana surpassed Miami by ½ a game last night for the No. 1 seed. They play each other in Miami tomorrow night. It’s quite conceivable that there will be some question regarding seeding for almost every spot, heading into the final game of the year.
Ultimately, Coach Clifford truly doesn’t spend much time thinking about seeding. He has expressed that he just wants this team ready to play at an elite level. His team is the only one in the NBA to have improved its offensive efficiency in every month this season. Part of that can be attributed to Al Jefferson’s return to health and being in better shape coming back from the ankle sprain in the preseason. Accompanying a top five defense in the league, the offensive growth has now positioned the Bobcats for a legitimate playoff run. If you extrapolate the numbers that we noted early, being 10 games over .500 over the last three months, this team would win 50 games in a full season the way that they are playing now.
Coach Clifford laid the foundation literally from day one as to how to shape a playoff culture. I vividly remember listening to him at the first shootaround that he conducted in early October in Asheville, prior to the opening preseason game (against Atlanta). He wasn’t happy with the concentration level and immediately addressed it firmly by stating that attention to detail is paramount, and that the team needs to focus during shootarounds before every game, as that can influence how a team plays that night. Six months later, his message hasn’t changed, and he’s proven that certain principles and the right approach will lead to success.
Lauer Blog Archive:
4/3/14: Cats Peaking at Right Time
3/20/14: Cats in Good Shape
3/13/14: Cats Could Get to 6
3/6/14: VIDEO: Chris Douglas-Roberts
2/27/14: VIDEO: Gary Neal
2/20/14: Next 6 Key for Cats
2/6/14: VIDEO: Bob Beyer
1/30/14: Big Al Deserves to be an All-Star
1/9/14: VIDEO: Ramon Sessions
1/9/14: VIDEO: Catching Up with Al Jefferson
12/26/13: Cats Focused on What's Ahead
12/19/13: Great December for Cats
12/12/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Stephen Silas
12/5/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Southerland
11/21/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Adrien
11/14/13: Jefferson Returning to Form
11/7/13: Unsung Heroes Helping Early Success
11/1/13: Ready for Home Opener
10/2/13: Bench Will Be a Difference Maker
10/1/13: Jefferson Will Make an Impact