Bobcats 1 win away from matching last year's total
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan's Bobcats are the NBA's most surprising team so far this season.
Charlotte (6-4) has won five of its past six games and is one win away from matching last year's win total.
The turnaround is impressive considering the Bobcats finished last season 7-59 and with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history. They lost their final 23 games of the season.
But under the direction of defensive-oriented coach Mike Dunlap, they've been competitive and have developed a knack for closing games. Charlotte is 5-0 in contests decided by four points or less — and without much NBA experience on the roster.
That's doesn't bother Dunlap.
"The most important part is to sell your system and what you're doing with a purpose," Dunlap said. "There's nothing like wins to help that out."
If players had any doubt about Dunlap's style, the six wins have helped eliminated that.
What Dunlap has been preaching is defense, which meant a summer full of intense workouts, some of those lasting as long as four hours.
He knew the Bobcats wouldn't be the most talented and or the most experienced team in the NBA — not even close, in fact — so he wanted to be better conditioned than anyone out there and use his team's young, fresh legs to his advantage.
"I think our defense is getting better and I'm selling that first and foremost," Dunlap said. "We have a ways to go with it. It's far from where it needs to be but it's getting there and we have the numbers to prove that."
Charlotte is allowing 98.8 points per game, but they rank in the top ten in the league in steals (86) and blocked shots (76). They're forced 14.6 turnovers per game.
"Coach Dunlap, it all starts with him," said second-year point guard Kemba Walker. "He's a real tough guy, really intense. We all feed off him."
On Wednesday night the Bobcats led Toronto 98-97 with 28 seconds left.
The Raptors had four shots on their final possession, but the Bobcats blocked two of those and withstood a furious final few seconds to win the game.
If Dunlap needed to emphasize a point about defense winning games this was it.
"I think it just shows what kind of toughness we have from the point guard all the way up to the center," said rookie guard Jeffery Taylor. "We have a lot of tough guys who know how to win games."
The Bobcats are still extremely young, particularly with guard Gerald Henderson out with a foot injury.