While there hasn't been much for the Charlotte Bobcats to celebrate this season, the improved play of Byron Mullens has them feeling optimistic heading into the second half.
The Orlando Magic will try to avoid another home loss to the Bobcats after the last one sent them on their worst skid in almost a decade.
In a meeting between the NBA's worst teams, the Bobcats and Magic hope to take advantage of a fresh start Tuesday night following the All-Star break.
After snapping an eight-game skid with a 94-91 win over Boston on Feb. 11, Charlotte fell 101-77 at Indiana on Wednesday to head into the break with 35 losses in 40 games after a 7-5 start.
The Bobcats (12-40) haven't been able to keep things close on the road, losing their last seven by an average of 16.2 points. Now they'll try to end that slide in the same venue as their last road win, 106-100 at Orlando on Jan. 18.
Charlotte did not have Mullens in that meeting because of a left ankle sprain that cost him 19 games, but the 7-footer has been one of the team's bright spots lately.
Mullens averaged 20.0 points - 7.2 above his season average - in four starts before the break, including a 25-point, 18-rebound performance against the Celtics.
"We need that from Byron," said guard Kemba Walker, who leads Charlotte with 17.2 points per game. "He can do it. We have to get him to do it every night. He's very capable of it. When he has big games like that it gives us a much better chance."
Walker averaged 11.0 points on 33.9 percent shooting in his last five before the break but may be able to bounce back against the Magic (15-37). He's scored 28.5 per game while shooting 52.8 percent in two meetings this season, including 32 points in a 107-98 home loss Dec. 15.
After averaging 87.4 points on 39.8 percent shooting over its last nine games, Charlotte will try to get something going against an Orlando team that has lost 24 of 27. The Magic have allowed 110.3 points over their last three contests.
Last month's loss to the Bobcats started a 12-game slide for the Magic, who had won 14 of 16 all-time at home in the series.
They ended their longest skid in nine years with a 110-104 win over Portland on Feb. 10 before falling 108-76 to Atlanta in their final game before the break Wednesday.
Orlando hasn't found much comfort on its home court, losing 12 of 14.
"At the end of the day, as simple as it can be you have to be ready to compete every night, especially with the remaining games that we have," coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Jameer Nelson, who shot 8 for 27 in his last two games, may be able to get on track against the Bobcats after averaging 19.0 points in the two meetings.
While Orlando has averaged 87.4 points in its last nine games, it has reached 100 in each of its last three in this series.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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