Brooklyn Nets face NBA's worst in Charlotte Bobcats

USA TODAY Sports

The Nets play their 76th game on Saturday against the lowly Bobcats who are "fighting" with the Magic for the NBA's worst record and the opportunity to win the overall first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. It's hardly a must-win for the Nets, but after the disappointment of Thursday's Bulls game --and their tenuous position in the seedings-- it's big enough.

The 'Cats have been playing well enough lately. Their 4-6 record over the last 10 is their best stretch they opened 6-4, giving their fans and owner Michael Jordan false hope that they had turned the corner in their seemingly interminable rebuilding program. They have had some bright spots amid the debris of a lost season. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the NBA's youngest player, has shown his potential. Kidd-Gilchrist was spectacular for the Bobcats Friday night vs. the Heat. He was tops for the Bobcats in both points (18) and rebounds (14) in 38 minutes of action. The 14 boards was a career high. Charlotte lost by 10 to Miami, who again didn't play LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen.

On the other hand, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, normally a barometer of the team's success, were awful . The Bobcats young backcourt combined for just 23 points and 5-for-31 shooting. Henderson, who the Nets passed on to take Terrence Williams in 2009, entered the game averaging almost 26 points in his previous five contests. He scored eight points in the first quarter, but tallied only three the rest of the way to finish 2-for-16 from the field. Walker wasn't much better from the field with a 3-for-15 night. The two are averaging a combined 32.8 points a game but the 'Cats are dead last in assists, along with being 29th in points allowed, and 27th in both points and rebounds per game.

Remarkably, the Nets are healthy this late in the season, with only some aches, pain, and strains. The game should be an opportunity for them to help fans forget the collapse in Brooklyn two nights ago. With the Hawks losing and the Bulls winning (barely) Friday night, the Nets are two games ahead of Atlanta and a game ahead of Chicago with eight to play.

The big problem of late, highlighted Thursday, has been Brook Lopez's inability to score in the fourth quarter. As Rod Boone reports, Lopez has scored 479 points in the first, 231 in the second, 365 in the third and only 227 in the fourth. Part of that stems from interim coach P.J. Carlesimo's substitution patterns, as Boone notes, but Lopez understands it's an issue.

"I definitely criticize myself, though, that I wasn't aggressive enough at the end of the game. If there's going to be any reason it didn't happen late in the game, it's totally on me."

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