The Charlotte Bobcats got to see Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour in action for the first time on Friday night since acquiring the duo from the Milwaukee Bucks at the NBA Trade Deadline. Against the San Antonio Spurs, Ridnour played just 13 minutes and was a virtual non-factor while Neal gave the Bobcats a big lift off of the bench with 15 points in 23 minutes.
However, Neal’s effort was wasted in a 92-82 loss to San Antonio that saw the Bobcats jump out to a big lead early on and the Spurs continue to chip away and build a lead of their own as the contest wore on. Al Jefferson remained the centerpiece of Charlotte with 20 points and seven rebounds, but the poor play of Kemba Walker hindered the Bobcats as the point guard put up just 11 points and four assists while shooting 3-15 from the floor on the night.
Friday night’s matchup with San Antonio marks the first game of an absolute monstrous four-game stretch for Charlotte. Now at 27-31 on the year after the loss to the Spurs, the Bobcats have road games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat in a back-to-back on Sunday and Monday; the Bobcats then come back home to welcome the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, which is hardly a sigh of relief for them.
The Bobcats sit at the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference right now, looking to make the postseason for only the second time in franchise history. However, they hold just a half-game lead over the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks and are up just four games on the ninth-placed Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons.
This titanic four-game stretch for the Bobcats is huge for them in terms of their postseason chances. While the Cavs and Pistons will need to win to step closer to Charlotte, the Bobcats could use a win over one of the top-tiered teams in the league to leave themselves a bit of a cushion with a month and a half remaining in the regular season.
Charlotte has made a remarkable turnaround this season considering their immense struggles over the past two years, which can largely be attributed to the additions of Jefferson and head coach Steve Clifford. However, if they are going to make the postseason, getting at least one upset-win over their next three games is rather pivotal. It’s possible without that happening, but it would make their lives a great deal easier. They’re 0-1 to start the stretch, but they still have a chance to come up big at least once in the coming week.