The Charlotte Bobcats are just hanging on to the final spot of the top half in the Eastern Conference, with only two wins ahead of the trailing Indiana Pacers. And they are the only other team on the top half, aside from the number seven Philadelphia 76’ers to have below .500 in games won.
But that’s just fine.
Fact is, the Bobcats would have been on a much lower spot than where they are right now. During the first 28 games of the season, they were only 9-19. And then Larry Brown was fired, after only a season of leading the newest NBA franchise to its first playoff appearance. The dismal start was just enough pressure to kick out a Hall of Fame coach. And did I mention this team is owned by Michael Jordan?
Enter Paul Silas, who was incidentally, asked to coach for a previous franchise in Charlotte, the Hornets, way back. His job back then didn’t have any difference from what he has right now–as interim coach. The role was simple–try to plug the holes before the boat fully sinks.
Seventeen games later, it seems the boat is cruising along just fine.
The Bobcats just earned their 19th win, courtesy of a 121-113 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors. Since Silas took over, the Bobcats have been 11-6. They’ve won six of the last ten games, and what used to be a ten-game win-loss differential has been halved. The ‘Cats are now just five games away from getting to the .500 mark.
Stephen Jackson best described this sudden turn-around.
“We are a confident team right now, and we credit that to coach Silas. He gives us confidence and lets us play and it is starting to show.”
The win over the Warriors was also somewhat a sweet revenge, after the latter edged them by one point last December 31, 96-95. More personally, it was of the same sort for Jackson, who previously suited up for Golden State, but eventually took off in what was dubbed as an “ugly divorce” last season. A three pointer at the dying seconds of regulation pushed the game into overtime, and along with it Charlotte’s chances of escaping a season sweep. The rest of the game in overtime was history.
If there is anything that Silas did to restore Charlotte to its winning ways, it was simply to let the players do what they do best–play. No doubt, he still inks that whiteboard with drawings, reminders, and motivating quotes. But out in the open floor, the players are instructed to just cruise along and play smart. Silas seems to know when to let instincts rule the game, and when to let his perspective take lead. The good balance in both strategy and spontaniety by Silas seems to be the key that has given Charlotte a spot in the top half of the standings.
And a spot in the hearts of his players as well.
What has unfolded over the weekend at the NBA Playoffs has pushed me to look back at our fearless forecasts and see which of them still holds.
Lakers vs. Thunder [prediction: Lakers in 5]
This one’s not anymore true, as the Thunder has pushed it so far to a six-game duel. If LA takes the next two games, then the other half of our forecast holds.
Jazz vs. Nuggets [prediction: Nuggets in 6]
Not anymore, it ain’t six games. The undermanned Jazz is in command at 3-1. Denver will have to push for the ultimate jugular by winning the last three games. And if they don’t, our prediction’s busted for this match altogether.
Suns vs. Blazers [prediction: Portland in 7]
With the series tied at 2 games apiece, the only way this prediction fails is if Phoenix aces their next two assignments–assignments that Brandon Roy could foil. His return mixes up all factors into the playoffs, and our forecast might just come through.
Spurs vs. Mavs [prediction: Mavs in 6]
This is the only prediction that I am utterly glad and delighted to be wrong. I’m a big Spurs fan, but at first I really thought the Mavs would be tougher this time around, especially if you look at how last year’s playoff match between them ended. But things have turned out entirely different than our forecasts. Definitely, it won’t be just six games anymore, as the Spurs are ahead 3-1. Dallas will have to win the next three straight games, or their off-season summer officially starts.
Cavaliers vs. Bulls [prediction: Cavaliers in 5]
One more win by the Cavs and our prediction will fully come true. Derrick Rose better pull out his best tricks up from his sleeves, or else their journey ends on the road at Cleveland.
Celtics vs. Heat [prediction: Celtics in 6]
Since they have gone 3-0 already, even before D-Wade took over earlier in their game four atrocity and winning one for the Heat, the Boston Celtics are coming back home for a chance to go for the kill. Unless Miami robs one on the road, the series will end at five games in Boston, for Boston.
Hawks vs. Bucks [prediction: Hawks in 4]
Well, there’ll be no sweep victory for the Hawks in this first round obstacle, as the Bucks bounce back to stay alive in the series. The Hawks are still favored to win this round, but not without facing the fear of the deer.
Magic vs. Bobcats [prediction: Magic in 5]
Definitely, after going up 3-0, Magic will win this series, as no team has bounced back from a 0-3 deficit to win the series. But they will have to fight some more to prove that they did not just fluked their way to the playoffs. One game will at least give them a playoff win, and prove our prediction true.
Since our predictions are two-part (who wins, and in how many games), we’re quite sure that Orlando and Boston are going into the next round. One more set of duels and we’ll get to see how our forecasts went for the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.