A matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats looks a lot more intriguing than it did a year ago.
Two of the league's more surprising teams go head to head on Monday night as the Bucks visit the Bobcats looking for their first 4-0 road start in 11 years.
These clubs were a combined 56 games under .500 last season, with Charlotte finishing an all-time worst 7-59.
The Bucks (6-2) have given themselves an early lead in the Central Division with their best start since going 9-1 in 2001-02 - also the last time they won their first four away from Milwaukee. They hit a season-high 13 3-pointers Saturday in a 117-113 victory over New Orleans.
"We like where we're at record wise," said Mike Dunleavy, who scored 17 points off the bench. "We've got some things to shore up."
Milwaukee struggled to stop New Orleans, as the Hornets shot 53.2 percent from the floor - the best clip the Bucks have allowed. But six Milwaukee players scored in double figures, and Monta Ellis had six of his team high-tying 22 points in the final two minutes.
Despite the result, coach Scott Skiles called his team's defense "embarrassing."
"You want to stop the other team," Dunleavy said. "You want to keep them below 90 points. So when these games get high scoring, it's a little dangerous. You never know what could happen down the stretch."
The Bobcats (4-4) had their three-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 94-87 home loss to the NBA-best Grizzlies. They've still won as many games as they won in last season's final 37 games.
Charlotte trailed by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter, but made it competitive as Kemba Walker scored 11 consecutive points. The Bobcats pulled to within five on several occasions.
"That's who we are and that's how we are going to be all season hopefully," said Walker, who is averaging a team-best 18.8 points. "When we are down, we are not going to put our heads down. We are going to try our best to close the game out and try to keep pushing. We don't want to give up."
Besides career-high scoring averages from Ramon Sessions (15.8) and Byron Mullens (12.1), pesky defense has also helped key Charlotte's improvement. The Bobcats have held their last four opponents to 36.7 percent shooting and 25.3 percent from beyond the arc after allowing 49.6 percent and 43.0 from long distance in their first four contests.
Charlotte dropped two of three to the Bucks last season, though Mullens scored a career-high 31 in a 95-90 loss at Milwaukee on April 6.
The Bobcats need to hope Walker is more disciplined in his shot selection against the Bucks this season. He averaged 14.7 points but shot 27.1 percent (13 of 48) in this series in 2011-12.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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