Charlotte is the NBA’s most surprising team so far this season. The Bobcats (6-4) have won five of their past six games and are one win from matching last season’s total for wins.
The Bobcats finished last season 7-59 and with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history. They lost their final 23 games.
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 fewer — and without much NBA experience on the roster.
“The most important part is to sell your system and what you’re doing with a purpose,” said Dunlap, who coached former Mount Tahoma High and University of Washington guard C.J. Massingale at NCAA Division II power Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2003-04. “There’s nothing like wins to help that out.”
What Dunlap has been preaching is defense, which meant a summer full of intense workouts.
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 the Bobcats rank in the top 10 in the league in steals (86) and blocked shots (76). They have forced 14.6 turnovers per game.
“Coach Dunlap, it all starts with him,” second-year point guard Kemba Walker said. “He’s a real tough guy, really intense. We all feed off him.”
Just how long the Bobcats are able to keep things up remains to be seen.
The Bobcats have wins over some top teams, including Dallas, Milwaukee and Minnesota.
One wins wa tainted, however. The NBA said Thursday that officials Ed Malloy, John Goble and Violet Palmer missed a foul by Kidd-Gilchrist against Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani on a jump shot in the final seconds of the Bobcats’ 98-97 victory Wednesday night.
The NBA said Bargnani should have been given two free throws but no foul was called.