for this game

Kings-Bobcats Preview

Jan 18, 2010 - 2:10 AM By MATT BEARDMORE STATS Writer

Sacramento (15-24) at Charlotte (19-19), 2:00 p.m. EDT

The playoffs don't start for three months, but the Charlotte Bobcats appear to be in good position to advance to the postseason for the first time. Based on their recent play, they could also make some noise if they get there.

Charlotte tries to win its season-best fifth straight overall and extend its franchise-best home winning streak to eight Monday afternoon when it takes on the slumping Sacramento Kings.

The Bobcats (19-19) are sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but they've played far better than a .500 team lately, winning seven of eight overall and seven straight in Charlotte. The surge has the Bobcats in position to make the postseason for the first time since joining the league in 2004-05.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they made the playoffs," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said Saturday after Charlotte routed his team 125-99. "And I wouldn't be surprised if they made it tough on somebody."

Coach Larry Brown has seen plenty of improvement from the Bobcats since they started 3-9, but he doesn't want his team to look too far ahead.

"I just want the guys to be proud of what they've done and realize these are just small steps," Brown said Saturday after Charlotte improved to 4-0 on its six-game homestand. "We dug ourselves such a huge hole at the beginning of the season. We've just got to continue to try to get better."

The arrival of Stephen Jackson via trade from Golden State on Nov. 16 has not only provided the Bobcats with a veteran presence, but also with a dynamic offensive game that makes him one of the toughest players in the league to defend.

Jackson, who surpassed 10,000 career points with 29 on Saturday, is averaging 21.2 with 5.2 rebounds as the Bobcats have gone 16-13 since he arrived.

"That's what I play this game for," Jackson said of making the playoffs. "I just want to go out there and be a factor every night."

Playing for Golden State, Jackson had 21 points in a 120-107 loss at Sacramento on Nov. 8.

With 10 defeats in their last 12 games, the Kings (15-24) continue their six-game trip in search of a much-needed victory. Sacramento, which has lost four of five all-time at Time Warner Cable Arena, has suffered through its three worst shooting performances of the season over the last week, hitting a combined 36.4 percent from the field during a three-game skid.

"These past couple games we haven't been able to hit shots and that's our team's strength," star guard Kevin Martin said following Saturday's 96-86 loss at Washington. "We've been holding teams under 100 points on this trip so once we start hitting some shots, I think we'll be fine."

Martin, who is averaging 21.0 points in two contests since returning from a 32-game absence with a wrist injury, did not play in last season's matchup in Charlotte - a 104-88 Bobcats victory on March 18.

Gerald Wallace, who led Charlotte with 25 points and 12 boards in that game, is averaging 22.7 points and 10.1 rebounds during the Bobcats' home winning streak.

Kings guard Tyreke Evans, leading all rookies with 20.4 points per game but shooting just 35.4 percent over his last three games, faces the Bobcats for the first time.

Sacramento hosts Charlotte on Jan. 30.