I got a hard time from some fellow Bobcats enthusiasts this week for a gaffe on Charlotte’s winning streak. That was my bad. A few people also said I was over-reacting to the Bobcat’s 5-4 start. I disagree there.
It was another narrow win, but the Bobcats got past the Toronto Raptors 98-97 on Wednesday night, and proved (to me, at least) once again that they have the talent and coaching to be a serious playoff contender. And at the very worst their days at the bottom of the Southeast division standings should be over in 2012.
With a 6-4 record, the Bobcats march into their Friday battle with the Atlanta Hawks trying to land their second three-game winning streak of the year, and get to an unlikely 7-4. The great news is that they’re already surpassing my expectations. You know, those gaudy expectations I had prior to the season that suggested they could go 6-9 in the month of November? They already have the six wins, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few more before the month is up.
Let’s breakdown their next game against the Hawks and see if they can get to 7-4:
1. The Point – Edge: Hawks
I’ve been really impressed with the leadership and balanced play from Kemba Walker. He’s turning into a great scorer and knows when and where to set up his teammates. Ramon Sessions offers really nice depth, too, which gives Charlotte’s lead guards a shot against just about any team in the NBA on any given night. However, I think Jeff Teague and Devin Harris get the edge here. Neither are as explosive of scorers as Walker right now, but both can shoot the three well, play defense, and are legit point guards. This one is pretty close, but I’m giving Atlanta the edge by a hair.
2. The Wings – Edge: Hawks
We all continue to be impressed with the flashes of greatness by 19-year old rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but it’s also been clear through 10 games that he’s inconsistent and has a lot to learn. Ramon Sessions has been great at either the one or two. Ben Gordon adds a solid and fairly consistent scoring punch off the bench, too, but overall I think the Hawks have this one, too. Kyle Korver shoots the deep ball better than most in the league, while Louis Williams is one of the bench spark bench players out there, too. It’s another close battle, but I think Atlanta has the more explosive scoring group with Devin Harris also playing a ton of two guard.
3. The Bigs – Edge: Hawks
Josh Smith isn’t exactly beasting out at the power forward position, but his versatility and explosiveness at both ends of the court still can’t be denied. From blocks to boards, Smith anchors Atlanta’s inside game. I just wish he’d take it inside a bit more and stop settling for easy long range jumpers. Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia finish things off with toughness inside, as both can defend well and can also score inside the paint effectively and consistently. The Bobcats got a nice game out of Bismack Biyombo against Toronto and I really like the maturation of Byron Mullens’ game, but the Hawks have this matchup in the bag.
4. Coaching – Edge: Bobcats
Mike Dunlap continues to impress me, while Larry Drew has been a little under-whelming as the head of the Hawks. Still, given that Dunlap has a team that wasn’t expected to do jack doing, well, a lot, I’m giving the coaching edge to Charlotte.
5. The Verdict – Hawks Win
As you can see by the positional matchups, Atlanta has the edge, but it’s not by much. The Hawks roll into Charlotte on Friday night with both teams at 6-4 and tied for second place behind the 9-3 Miami Heat in the Southeast division. They’ll both stay behind the Heat all year long, but this game could go a long way in telling you who will take second. I give the Bobcats a fighting chance considering how these two teams are very evenly matched on paper, but I’ll take the Hawks in their first of two November meetings.