- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Gerald Wallace had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and the Charlotte Bobcats continued their surprising mastery of the Los Angeles Lakers in a 94-84 victory on Tuesday night.

Raymond Felton added 16 points as the Bobcats completed a season sweep of the Western Conference leaders, who have lost six of seven to Charlotte.

Failing to reach 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since November, the Lakers dropped their second straight. Kobe Bryant scored 25 points, but hit just 11 of 28 shots. Lamar Odom added 20 points as the Lakers dropped to 4-2 on their seven-game road trip.

The Bobcats, who set a franchise record with their 34th win, dominated the fourth quarter and held the Lakers to 39 percent shooting to move within one game of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

After Bryant had two buckets in an 8-0 run to get the Lakers within 80-78 with 5:32 left, Boris Diaw hit a floater in the lane and Raja Bell made a 3-pointer on the next possession.

Wallace, playing perhaps the best basketball of his career, then blew by Luke Walton for a reverse layup. Wallace ripped the ball away from Walton on the next possession. The Lakers never recovered, and fell three games behind Cleveland for the NBA’s best record and home-court advantage for a possible finals matchup.

Indiana’s victory over Chicago moved the Bobcats within a game of the eighth-place Bulls.

Their playoff push _ and the Lakers’ lone trip to Charlotte this season _ produced an overflow crowd of 19,568, the largest for a Bobcats game in their 4-year-old arena.

Even elusive Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan showed up, sitting in a courtside seat that has been empty for several weeks.

Jordan, likely to be voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, was spotted coming out of the visiting coaches locker room just an hour before tipoff with Phil Jackson, his coach for his six NBA-title seasons in Chicago.

“Good luck, Phil Jackson,” Jordan said as the Lakers coach stopped for his pregame media availability.

“He knows his team has to win games,” replied Jackson. “Right now he’s trying to psych us out.”

Surprisingly, the Bobcats have done that to the Lakers despite never finishing better than 33-49 in their first four seasons.

Wallace, who sustained a partially collapsed lung and broken rib on a flagrant foul by Andrew Bynum in Charlotte’s double-overtime win in Los Angeles in January, hit 10 of 16 shots and added four assists.

After shooting 35 percent and scoring a season-low 76 points in Atlanta on Sunday, the Lakers had an extended practice on Monday, but their offense remained stagnant.

Bryant shot just 7-for-19 from the field while playing through an upset stomach on Sunday. He was on the court shooting more than two hours before Tuesday’s game, but was just 4-for-14 at halftime as the Lakers clung to a 44-43 lead.

Bryant heated up in the third quarter, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to put Los Angeles ahead 60-53 with 4:34 left.

Then Charlotte came alive. As the Lakers got sloppy, the Bobcats went on a 19-4 run, with D.J. Augustin’s layup giving Charlotte a 72-64 lead with 10:53 left in the fourth quarter.

The Bobcats stretched the lead to 80-70 on Augustin’s 3 with 7:47 left.

Notes:@ Lakers F Adam Morrison never got off the bench in his first game back to Charlotte since the Feb. 7 trade. Morrison chatted with several ex-teammates in pregame warmups. … Charlotte F Vladimir Radmanovic, acquired for Morrison, had a bizarre basket early in the fourth quarter when a pass bounced off his hands, went high in the air, off the glass and in. … The Bobcats signed G Dontell Jefferson for the rest of the season, the day his second 10-day contract expired.

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