Just a few days ago, we saw the Charlotte Bobcats play horrible basketball in Washington, D.C. but somehow come out with an overtime win over the Wizards, 95-86. There would be no overtime tonight, as the ‘Cats survived multiple attempts at a comeback by the Washington Wizards to win 107-96. The Bobcats earned their franchise-record 38th win, and are for the first time ever four games over .500%. The Wizards, however, set their own franchise record with their 14th consecutive loss. While it wasn’t pretty, it’s a win, and that means the magic number to make the playoffs is down to 7.
Suspended Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas showed up for his sentencing earlier in the day (30 days in a halfway house and community service, if you were wondering), but most of his teammates were nowhere to be found. Mike Miller scored just 10 points in 36 minutes and just three Wizards scored more than 10 points. One of them is D-League call-up Alonzo Gee, who replaced the injured Al Thornton in the starting lineup with 19 points, making him Washngton’s leading scorer. No Wizard had more than 7 rebounds, and they had shots blocked by the Bobcats 8 times. Believe it or not, Raymond Felton had two of those blocks to go along with his 19 points (on 8-10 shooting) and 11 assists. Felton said postgame that “we’re treating every game like a playoff game” and attributed his recent performance boost to “being at my comfort level.” But he was far from the only Bobcat to contribute. Gerald Wallace had 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals along with several crowd-pleasing dunks. Stephen Jackson dropped in 20 points, and Boris Diaw put out a 12/5/4 line. Tyson Chandler had 4 points, 5 rebounds and a block off the bench, but his post presence was more valuable than numbers can show. New Bobcat Larry Hughes had his best game in a short period, going 4-10 for 10 points with 3 rebounds. But perhaps the most encouraging stat of the game is playing time: No starter played more than 34 minutes, and league leader in minutes per game Gerald Wallace played just 32:28 with just as much effectiveness. While I doubt this will push Coach Larry Brown to rest the starters more, considering the poor play of the bench (outside Chandler and Hughes, there were just 11 bench points on 16 shots, and 7 turnovers from the bench), it’s at least a good sign for one night. Regarding the game, LB said “I wasn’t crazy about it, we turned the ball over too much, we got beat on straight line drives.” He’s also been keeping tabs on NCAA tournament action, saying “Hell, you can be Northern Iowa, St. Mary’s, Butler, it doesn’t matter, we gotta respect whoever we play…Sometimes, I don’t know if we completely understand that.”
Notes: The Bobcats led the whole game…Former Bobcat Earl Boykins did not play in a coach’s decision for the Wizards…Despite sitting himself in the previous game against the ‘Cats, Andray Blatche started and played 38 minutes…The Bobcats swept the season series with Washington 4-0…Two of the Bobcats’ next three games are against close rivals in the playoff race, Monday the 29th vs. Toronto and Friday April 2nd vs. Milwaukee…With the Bulls being inactive tonight, the magic number of Bulls losses and Bobcats wins is now 7, and the Bobcats could possibly clinch a playoff spot by beating the Bulls in Chicago next Saturday (april 3rd), though mathematically it could be as soon as the 2nd…Miami beat the Bucks tonight, placing Charlotte 1/2 game back of the 6th spot in the Heat but just 1 1/2 games back of 5th (Milwaukee).