The Charlotte Bobcats have been atrocious on the road this season. Well, at least until last week. Three straight wins at Phoenix, Golden State and Sacramento have pushed the Cats' road record to 6-17. So indeed, Larry Brown's team are riding a bit of a hot hand (they have won seven of their last 10 as well).
Gerald Wallace, one of the more entertaining players to watch in the NBA--few seem to be in more places at once--is the heart of the franchise. Saturday at Sacramento the top-gear forward finished with game highs of 38 points and and 11 rebounds. It should be interesting to see if Nic Batum can handle the blistering Wallace.
As great as Wallace has been, the addition of Steven Jackson has upgraded the Bobcats' chances of making their first playoff appearance (thanks to a weak Eastern Conference) to probable. It would be great achievement, quickly followed by being swept in four games by Cleveland. Since Jackson was acquired from Golden State on Nov. 16th, Charlotte are 21-16. Furthermore, the historically volatile Jackson and coach Larry Brown have gotten together quite well.
On the Blazers' end, they're going to need Martell Webster to emerge from his recent funk. As we reported early in the month, Martell scored in double-figures eight-straight games. It appeared that consistency, something that's been trouble for the young forward in the past, was something Webster was finally getting a handle on. Apparently not.
In Dallas, Webster scored a miserable four points in 24 minutes, and did not play in crunch time. The night before in Houston, he was even more ineffective, finishing with just two points in 21 mins. In the last four games since scoring a career high 28 in Detroit, Webster has hit just 10 of 33 attempts.
It's important to note that Webster's cold-streak began the very game Nic Batum returned to the line-up. It's been long suspected that Webster is a player who has a tendency to let his thoughts get the best of him. Despite saying all the right things in interviews, Webster does not always feel like the most stable Blazer, psychologically speaking. He over-thinks things, and one must wonder if the current streak of poor play is a result of this inward force? Surely Martell was on a fine high a week or two ago, playing the best basketball of his career. Now, suddenly, he begins worrying about losing his starting spot to Batum; who is a quiet contributor at worst, a Durant-esque superstar at best. Here's where Coach McMillan must come in and quickly assuage Webster's fears and crisis of confidence. Indeed, this is where coaches earn their stripes.
The Blazers won the year's first meeting with the Bobcats, 80-74. Picking up a win Monday is important--while the Bobcats are no longer a pushover, they are the worst team the Portland will face in the next week and a half. (Next five games: @Utah, San Antonio, The Lakers, Oklahoma City, @Phoenix)Tip-off: 7:00PM
Vegas Line: Portland -1.5