The Charlotte Bobcats have defeated two playoff contenders in the last week, but just as important may be their improved play against teams that are among the worst in the NBA.
The Bobcats look to win their fifth straight and keep pace in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
Charlotte (32-31) is among five teams fighting for one of the final four postseason spots in the East. The Bobcats are tied with Toronto and Miami for the No. 6 seed -- two games behind fifth-place Milwaukee and narrowly ahead of ninth-place Chicago.
Led by outstanding defense, the Bobcats, who have never reached the playoffs, have looked like a legitimate threat following home wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Heat in the last week.
Their two other victories during this streak were against Golden State and at Philadelphia.
After a five-point win over the Heat on Tuesday, the Bobcats defeated the 76ers 102-87 on Wednesday, leading by as many as 29.
"We had an emotional win last night," coach Larry Brown said. "I thought this would be tougher. We've struggled on the road, so this was a big win for us."
The victories over the Warriors and 76ers were important for the Bobcats, who at times have struggled against teams with losing records. They've dropped two games to New Jersey (7-57) and fell 98-94 to the Clippers (25-40) on Feb. 22.
Charlotte kept up its defensive pressure Wednesday, forcing 21 turnovers and holding Philadelphia to 14 points in the third quarter. Gerald Wallace had 28 points and Stephen Jackson finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
"This was a must-win for us," Wallace told the Bobcats' official Web site. "We've got some momentum going right now."
The Clippers are one of three teams that have scored more than 93 points against the Bobcats in the last 11 games. Los Angeles had six players finish in double figures, led by Rasual Butler's 20.
Charlotte is hoping to have an easier time in the rematch, especially given its 23-8 record at home. Los Angeles comes in on a five-game losing streak, averaging 89.0 points in the last four.
The Clippers fell 108-97 to Miami on Wednesday for their eighth straight loss on the road. They have dropped 20 of their last 22 away from home.
Los Angeles was within five late in the third quarter before the Heat pulled away with a 15-2 run. Butler finished with 31 points, going 6 of 11 from 3-point range.
The Clippers close their five-game trip against San Antonio on Saturday.
"We have to get better every day," interim coach Kim Hughes said. "We have to work and try to find that chemistry. There are no excuses for not continuing to finish it out. The season is not done and every game is a learning process."
The Clippers have lost their last two visits to Charlotte after winning their first three.