For the first time in almost half a decade, the Charlotte Bobcats clinched their second playoff berth in franchise history. Playoffs? Yes, we are talking playoffs with a team that combined for only 28 wins in their last two seasons. Four years ago, the Bobcats had one of the most memorable seasons in franchise history, making the playoffs for the first time with an All-Star in Gerald Wallace. During the 2009-10 season, Charlotte set new heights for their franchise accumulating a franchise-best in wins (44), a No. 1 ranked defense (93.8) in the NBA and the highest total in franchise history with 31 home victories. Too bad that remarkable year was cut short after being swept in the first round by the Orlando Magic. Much like four years ago, the Bobcats are almost duplicating the same kind of statistics. Charlotte is going to finish above .500 with 42 victories and are currently ranked fourth in defense (97.2). With similar stats, is this resurrected Charlotte team better than four years ago?
The answer is yes.
One of the key factors that could prove this point is the most important one of them all, Al Jefferson. So far this season, Jefferson is averaging a double-double with 22.0 points and 10.8 rebounds. With 27 points and 15 rebounds on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, Jefferson extended his franchise record streak of games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds to seven games. Jefferson is averaging 26.5 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting .543 from the field (69-of-127) and .750 from the free-throw line (21-of-28) during the seven-game stretch. Jefferson was also named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played from Mar. 31-Apr. 6, earning the award for the second time in four weeks and was also named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March. Jefferson is the only player in the Eastern Conference and one of only five players in the NBA averaging at least 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds on the season. With the center position descending the way it is, Jefferson is proving himself night after night that he could be a match-up nightmare for any team in the playoffs.
Another key factor is that the Bobcats are practically catching fire at the right time in the season going into the playoffs. Charlotte is 19-9 since the All-Star Break and 15-6 in their last 21 games. During the 21-game stretch, the Bobcats are averaging 102.1 points while surrendering only 96.7 and have topped the 100-point plateau 12 times compared to only five times for their opponents. The team is 5-1 so far in the month of April and has clinched a third consecutive winning month for the first time in franchise history after going 6-4 in February and 9-7 in March. The only previous time the Bobcats had two straight winning months came in March and April 2010 when they were 11-6 and 5-3, respectively. Charlotte is the only team in the NBA to improve its offensive efficiency rating in each month this season.
The last key factor is that the Bobcats are almost unstoppable at home. The Bobcats are 13-2 in their last 15 home games, including an eight-game win streak from Feb. 11-Mar. 14, the second-longest home win streak in franchise history. The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau 10 times during the 15-game stretch, including a season-high 124 points on Mar. 22 against the Portland Trail Blazers. They are also averaging 103.1 points and 23.5 assists over the 15-game span. Jefferson has led the way for the Bobcats, averaging 25.8 points and 10.9 rebounds, while Kemba Walker is averaging 19.1 points, 8.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds. Not only is Charlotte good at home, but they can also win on the road. Charlotte has 17 road victories this season, breaking the previous franchise record of 13 in the 2009-10 season. If the Bobcats manage to win all of their home games and at least one road victory, they could make a lot more noise than we expect.