Magic 91, Bobcats 88
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
Even when the Orlando Magic get to play a road game there are problems with the court.
Vince Carter's scary fall on a slippery spot in the final minutes and his subsequent strained right hip flexor injury overshadowed the Magic's first road win of the season, a 91-88 escape against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night.
''It was a needless injury and that's what (ticks) me off,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Dwight Howard had 22 points and eight rebounds, Rashard Lewis scored 22 points and the Magic withstood Charlotte's furious comeback when Boris Diaw and D.J. Augustin missed tying 3-point attempts in the closing seconds.
But once again the court was the overriding focus for the Magic, who overcame Jameer Nelson sitting out with a sprained ankle to win their first road game of the season in a rematch of last season's first-round playoff series.
The Magic had their final exhibition game in Tampa, Fla., postponed because of a slippery court. A game Tuesday at New York was postponed after safety concerns when debris fell into the arena during overnight cleaning of asbestos-related materials.
This time it appeared to be a simple sweat spot that felled Carter, who slipped trying to cut while dribbling with just under 2 minutes left. Carter was face down for several minutes before gingerly walking off the court.
Van Gundy, upset the wet spot hadn't been wiped up earlier, was hit with a technical foul. Carter declined to discuss the severity of his injury.
''I don't know,'' Van Gundy said of Carter's status. ''He was pretty hurt and wasn't coming back into that game.''
After trailing by 18 in the third quarter, the Bobcats got within 89-88 on Stephen Jackson's driving layup with 32 seconds left as Carter was getting treated. Quentin Richardson answered with a runner in the lane with 9.8 seconds to go.
Diaw and Augustin then missed 3-pointers, thwarting Charlotte's comeback bid.
Gerald Wallace had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Bobcats, who have dropped five of their first six games and were again done in by a slow start.
''We don't have a sense of urgency until we're down,'' Wallace said. ''We should come out and attack teams. We should have teams on their toes, and we don't do that until we're down 20 or we're down 15.''
Jackson, fined $50,000 on Saturday for berating the officials a night earlier in a loss to Detroit, added 16 points. But he was just 7 of 19 from the field and had four of Charlotte's 16 turnovers.
Richardson added 14 points and Orlando overcame 41 percent shooting and injury woes.
Nelson twisted his left ankle late in Friday's win over New Jersey and didn't dress.
''It's getting better and I'm just trying to get as much treatment as I can before the next game and see how it feels then,'' Nelson said. ''There is no timetable.''
Nelson, who dominated ex-Charlotte guard Raymond Felton in a four-game playoff sweep last spring, was limping noticeably before the game. Van Gundy started Chris Duhon at point guard and Richardson started ahead of Ryan Anderson, but the Magic leaned heavily on Howard early.
After benching center Nazr Mohammed for the entire second half Friday, Charlotte coach Larry Brown started him and, at first, was not giving him help on Howard.
Howard immediately hit two half hooks before Augustin provided help and Howard hit a jumper over the double team.
Orlando built a 28-17 lead with the help of the familiar theme for Charlotte: turnovers.
From illegal screens, bad passes and poor spacing, the NBA's lowest-scoring team seemed out of it when Lewis got hot.
He hit three 3-pointers in a 96-second span midway through the third quarter to put Orlando ahead 63-45. But the Bobcats again clawed back before struggling on their final possession.
Jackson bobbled the ball near the top of the circle before finding Diaw on the right wing. His rushed 3 barely hit the front of the rim and went off the baseline off the Magic with 0.8 seconds left.
But the Bobcats struggled to get the ball inbounds, and Augustin's desperation attempt from the right corner missed at the buzzer, leaving owner Michael Jordan's team 0-2 at home.
''Our younger guys are getting better,'' Brown said. ''I just don't want them to lose confidence.''
Notes: Van Gundy said he'd continue to tinker with the starting lineup until he feels ''comfortable'' with a combination. ''Everybody on this roster is alive and important,'' he said. ... The crowd, apparently loaded with North Carolina fans, booed Magic G and ex-Duke star J.J. Redick every time he touched the ball. ... Brown said C Kwame Brown (ankle) is ''getting closer'' to returning from a severe ankle sprain. ... Nelly, a Bobcats part-owner, sat courtside.