76ers will not take 7-7 Bobcats lightly

South Jersey's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been one of the keys to the Bobcats' resurgence.
South Jersey's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been one of the keys to the Bobcats' resurgence. (CHUCK BURTON / AP)
Posted: December 01, 2012

The last time the 76ers played a lightly regarded team on the road, the results weren't what coach Doug Collins or any of the players expected.

Going into Cleveland to face a Cavaliers team without injured point guard Kyrie Irving, the Sixers suffered a 92-83 loss on Nov. 21, the night before Thanksgiving. In the win, Cleveland shot 13 for 23 from three-point range.

So, after three home games, the Sixers (9-6) hit the road Friday against another low-profile, albeit vastly improved, squad, the Charlotte Bobcats.

Collins doesn't expect a repeat performance of the team's game against Cleveland.

"I thought we convinced ourselves we were tired [against Cleveland]," Collins said following Thursday's practice. "We played with mental fatigue more than physical fatigue, and I think our guys can learn from that."

Coming off a 7-59 season, the Bobcats, under new coach Mike Dunlap, are 7-7 despite one of their leading players, Episcopal Academy graduate Gerald Henderson, being out with a sprained left foot. He has played only two games.

"The team has been great about absorbing his loss, but when we get him back I think it will help us with those closer games, which we have had plenty," Dunlap said in an e-mail.

Expanding on that point, 10 of Charlotte's 15 games have been decided by eight points or fewer.

The Bobcats are a guard-oriented team. Their three leading scorers are guards Kemba Walker (average of 16.5 points per game), Ramon Sessions (16.5), and Ben Gordon (13.5).

"Ben Gordon is an added scorer who had seven threes [Wednesday in a 94-91 loss] against Atlanta," said Collins, whose team visits Chicago on Saturday in this two-game road trip. "I always liked Sessions as a very good pick-and-roll player, and Kemba Walker is a high-energy guy."

Dunlap has brought a defensive mentality to the team.

Somerdale's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the overall No. 2 draft pick from the University of Kentucky, has fit in well in Charlotte's frontcourt. He is averaging 11 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.43 blocked shots in 27.2 minutes. Kidd-Gilchrist has lived up to his reputation as a defensive presence.

When asked about the most impressive part of Kidd-Gilchrist's game, Dunlap had high praise, citing three attributes.

"He is all about team. Two is he's a vicious competitor. And three, he gets better every time out," Dunlap said.

Winners of two in a row, the Sixers aren't going to take the Bobcats for granted.

"Charlotte is a tough team and beat some good teams and has been playing great basketball," said Sixers forward Thaddeus Young, who is averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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