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Charlotte Bobcats’ Surge Continuing To Fly Under The Radar

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Bobcats continued to climb higher in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they defeated the sixth-place Washington Wizards on Wednesday night by a 96-85 score.

The respect is still lacking and the praise from NBA fans will never come, but the Bobcats keep grinding and taking surprising steps closer to just their second playoff appearance in the teams 10 year existence. Statement wins like these against true conference foes build important confidence and strength going into the closing stretch.

Usually, the end of the season for both these franchises means looking forward to the ping pong balls, but this season brings new light. The Cats are looking to notch their first playoff berth since 2010, and the Wizards are aiming for their first berth since 2008. There was definitely a playoff feel in the atmosphere.

Al Jefferson once again significantly aided Charlotte as he scored a game-high 26 points and contributed another 10 rebounds. Though Jefferson has been playing standout basketball lately, the Cats are relying too much on Big Al’s strong performances. He is averaging a phenomenal 28 points per game so far in March, and also shooting a very comfortable 61 percent from the field.

Though the constant 20-10s are great, fans are looking for a more consistent Kemba Walker along with all starters as well. The Cats’ starting five all scored in double-digits on way to their 31st win of the season. Though Walker’s 5-of-13 shooting night doesn’t look as good compared to John Wall‘s 10-19, its in the fourth quarter when you see why Kemba was the point guard of the night.

This game truly came down to the wire, and no team led by more than six until five minutes remaining in the game. Wall struggled in the final frame. The All-Star went scoreless and had a tough time finding teammates. His costly fouls and missed free throws also aided the Cats as they ended the game on a 15-5 run.

Why did Walker win the battle? He was a major factor in the fourth. Whether it was finding his teammates on all parts of the floor, making four clutch free throws, playing solid on ball defense or just doing what is expected, its clear Walker was the x-factor tonight. Though Wall’s 23 points may look strong, it’s Kemba’s shutout fourth quarter that helped his team prevail.

The Bobcats’ next game is Friday night against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves at Time Warner Cable Arena in front of the hometown Charlotte crowd — another great big man matchup to pay close attention to.

Daniel Carney covers the Charlotte Bobcats for rantsports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_jcarney, subscribe to him on YouTube where he talks sports, and add him on Google+.

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