- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Gerald Wallace neared his home arena and was met by a sea of fans wearing Los Angeles Lakers shirts, jackets and hats.

“That’s kind of embarrassing,” the Charlotte Bobcats forward said. “I saw nothing but purple and white. I felt like I was driving in L.A.”

Those folks should have known the Lakers had no chance. Strange as it sounds, the Bobcats own the mighty Lakers.

Continuing perhaps the most unlikely dominance of one team over another in the NBA, the Bobcats got 21 points and 13 rebounds from Wallace and used stifling defense to beat the Lakers 94-84 on Tuesday night and move within one game of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Raymond Felton added 16 points, D.J. Augustin scored 14 and Boris Diaw had 12 assists as the Bobcats frustrated Kobe Bryant and completed a season sweep of the Western Conference champions, who have lost six of seven to Charlotte over the past four seasons.

Playing in front of an overflow crowd of 19,568 _ the largest to see a Bobcats game in the team’s 4-year-old arena _ those fans in Bryant jerseys were either drowned out or converted by the surprising fifth-year Bobcats, who set a team record with their 34th win.

“I wish we could get that kind of support with orange and white,” Wallace said. “At the same time, it was kind of good, because it gives us a chance to win our fans back. They want us to give them a reason to come out and support us.”

Failing to reach 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since November, the weary Lakers dropped their second straight with one game left Wednesday in Milwaukee on their seven-game, 13-day road trip.

Bryant scored 25 points, but hit just 11 of 28 shots. Lamar Odom added 20 points as the Lakers fell three games behind Cleveland for the NBA’s best record and home-court for a possible finals matchup.

“They always play us well,” Bryant said of the Bobcats. “They have good guards, athletic forwards and big guys up front. You have to give them credit. They always play hard.”

Bryant, shadowed most of the game by Raja Bell, is just 18-for-47 from the field in the past two games.

After losses by Chicago and Detroit on Tuesday, the Bobcats are a game behind the eighth-place Bulls and two back of the seventh-place Pistons. But the Bobcats close with six of their final eight on the road, starting Wednesday in Boston.

Unfortunately, they have no more games against the Lakers.

“We match up real well with them,” Wallace said. “We kind of force Kobe into taking a lot of tough shots, and kind of get him out of the way he wants to do things offensively.”

Cavaliers 79, Pistons 73

At Cleveland, LeBron James made two crucial three-point plays down the stretch and finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds as the Cavs won their 13th straight and improved to 36-1 at home.

Richard Hamilton scored 13 and Allen Iverson 11 for the Pistons.

Trail Blazers 125, Jazz 104

At Portland, Ore., LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points, Brandon Roy had 25 points and 11 assists, and the Trail Blazers gained outright possession of second place in the Northwest Division.

Carlos Boozer, ejected midway through the third quarter after a verbal altercation with Portland’s Joel Przybilla, led Utah with 20 points. Deron Williams scored 16.

Nuggets 111, Knicks 104

At Denver, Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points and the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot and moved into the No. 2 spot in the West heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Nate Robinson scored 30 for the Knicks.

Thunder 96, Spurs 95

At San Antonio, Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Oklahoma City beat the Spurs for the second time in two weeks.

San Antonio clinched a playoff berth despite the loss, but with eight games left fell into a first-place tie with Houston in the Southwest Division.

Hornets 111, Kings 110

At Sacramento, Calif., Rasual Butler hit a 3-pointer as time expired to cap a final minute full of dramatic plays, and New Orleans survived the Kings’ late rally.

David West matched his career high with 40 points and Chris Paul had 15 points and 15 assists for the Hornets. Andres Nocioni scored 23 points and Kevin Martin added 20 for the Kings, who retired Vlade Divac’s No. 21 jersey during a halftime ceremony.

76ers 98, Hawks 85

At Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala scored 19 points, Andre Miller added 18 points and 10 assists, and the 76ers overcame a season-high 33 points from Josh Smith to climb within a half-game of Miami for fifth place in the Eastern playoff race.

Pacers 107, Bulls 105

At Indianapolis, T.J. Ford hit the go-ahead jumper with 3.9 seconds left, and the Pacers tightened the race for the eighth spot in the East.

Danny Granger led the Pacers with 31 points. Derrick Rose had 24 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for the Bulls.

Mavericks 108, Timberwolves 88

At Minneapolis, Josh Howard had 14 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes in his return from an 11-game absence, Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 12 boards, and Dallas moved four games ahead of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Kevin Love had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played their second straight game without Randy Foye and Craig Smith.



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