Hard to believe, but doesn't it have a nice, refreshing ring to it?
In due time, these young Bobcats will be embarking on a playoff journey with sights set on shocking the world. There will be little to no pressure on them since they are playing with house money. No one expected them to even be as good as they already are, but Charlotte still has room to improve and indeed surprise some people who have overlooked the team.
This bunch has showed grit, intensity and of late has been scoring a bit better, which has contributed greatly to them winning 11 of the past 15 games. In order for them to get off the schneid and log the first playoff wins, and hopefully the first series win in franchise history, Steve Clifford's Cats are going to have to tweak a thing or two.
Get Kemba Walker's Shot on Track
The Bobcats young point guard has consistently hit some cold-blooded shots during crunch time throughout this entire season, but there are still about 43 other minutes to be played on a nightly basis.
Since the All-Star break, Walker's affinity for getting his teammates more involved has become apparent. He has logged 7.5 assists a night since the break instead of just dumping the ball down to Al Jefferson when he cannot find a shot. He is working the pick-and-roll and finding open shooters on the perimeter just like his teammates need him to do.
The problem is that since his passing has been on the rise, his shot has gone the other direction. Walker is knocking down just 36.7 percent of his attempts since the break.
This dry spell has been exaggerated in the past few weeks as well. Walker has launched at least 19 shots in six of the past eight games while making eight or less each time. His erratic shooting would be more palatable if he didn't take so many shots, but given his role on the team, he needs to be an effective scorer.
What he has been doing well is distributing efficiently. Walker has more than three assists for every turnover since the break, which is outstanding. His passing correlates more to the team winning than his scoring does, but that does not mean Charlotte is better off with him being passive.
Charlotte is 9-0 this season when Walker nets at least 10 assists, but it is also 5-0 when he scores at least 30 points. More than anything, the Bobcats just need Walker to be mature. They need him to be national championship UConn Kemba Walker and not shot-chucking Kemba Walker. Shooting 6-of-20 will not result in too many playoff victories, but efficient scoring and distributing definitely will.
Don't Get Torched
The playoffs are where the stars truly shine, and if the regular season is any indication, Charlotte had better hope its two stars are shining incredibly bright.
The reason I say this is because the Bobcats have developed a troubling habit for getting obliterated by opposing teams' best players.
Here is a quick rundown of some noteworthy performances against these Bobcats this year; Carmelo Anthony dropped 62 points. LeBron James scored 61. Stephen Curry scored 43. Kyrie Irving recently canned 44 with eight assists. Thirty points, 17 rebounds and six assists from DeMarcus Cousins. A huge 33-point, 13-rebound effort from Paul Millsap.
Now, great players do get hot. No team can prevent stars from getting their numbers, but Charlotte is a team that prides itself on defense. The Bobcats are fourth in the league in points per game allowed at just over 97.
This has all been less of an issue lately, especially since LeBron's explosion. That appears to have truly ignited a fire under this team, and it is something the team is going to have to ride out the rest of the season. As great as any particular defender on this team is, no one is capable of stopping a superstar all by himself, so should the Bobcats find themselves up against LeBron or Paul George in the postseason, they are going to have to buckle down.
Win on the Road
One thing that Bobcats fans may not realize is that this team has not at all proved that it can go on the road and win tough games away from Charlotte.
The Bobcats have just four wins all season on the road against teams currently slated to make the playoffs, and two of those were against the Wizards in the past month. The other two were a win at Golden State and a victory in overtime up in Toronto.
Charlotte is not getting home-court advantage, so in order for it to have any chance to steal a series victory, the Bobcats are going to have to exhibit the same poise on the road that they do at home. Beating a weak team on the road in the regular season is nothing compared to winning playoff games in hostile arenas.
The Bobcats have done a great job instilling a winning culture and attitude throughout the entire organization in such a short amount of time. They really know how to grind out tough victories and come out ahead on nights when it didn't look like they would have the upper hand, but now it is time for them to kick it into high gear.
Gary Neal is the only player on the roster with substantial playoff experience, so he must be the veteran voice of reason and make sure this young roster does not shrink on the road.