Bobcats 109, Hawks 100

Not only have the Charlotte Bobcats never made the playoffs,

they’ve also never had a player record a triple-double.

The six-year-old franchise moved closer to that elusive

postseason berth on Tuesday night, even if they fumbled Boris

Diaw’s chances of accomplishing the latter.

Gerald Wallace scored 28 points, Diaw finished with 17 points,

nine rebounds and nine assists, and the Bobcats ensured their first

non-losing season with a 109-100 victory over the banged-up Atlanta

Hawks.

As the Bobcats (41-36) can finish no worse than .500, it led to

a jovial atmosphere in the locker room as they argued over who was

responsible for Diaw missing out.

Was it Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton or Derrick

Brown?

“He had a rebound and Gerald took it. We had just told

Gerald,” coach Larry Brown said, smiling. “Then we ran a play for

him and Jack curled and had a six-footer and missed it. Then I took

everybody out and Derrick had a layup.”

Wallace had his own take.

“If I hadn’t went for that rebound, he would have been,

‘Rebound!”’ he said of Brown. “No, I didn’t know about the

rebound. I knew about the assist and Jack and Ray stunk that

up.”

While Charlotte saw its magic number to clinch a playoff berth

sliced to two after Chicago lost to Milwaukee, the Hawks remained a

game ahead of Boston in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern

Conference after the Celtics lost in New York.

But Atlanta’s hopes of reaching 50 wins for the first time in 12

years were squashed as it fell behind by 20 points after the first

quarter with plenty of different faces on the floor.

Maurice Evans scored 20 points, while Jamal Crawford and Josh

Smith added 18 apiece for the Hawks, who played without top scorer

Joe Johnson (sprained thumb) and point guard Mike Bibby (ingrown

toenail).

“I think we were all a little tense at the beginning,” said Al

Horford, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The Bobcats took advantage, building leads of 34-14 after the

first quarter and 59-36 at halftime behind Wallace, who had 22

points at the break.

“It felt good because we didn’t have to work too hard

tonight,” said Jackson, who added 15 points despite a variety of

injuries. “We didn’t have to play for the whole fourth

quarter.”

Atlanta got within nine on several occasions in the fourth, but

Wallace and Diaw were there to end the Hawks’ comeback hopes as

Charlotte split the season series in a possible first-round playoff

preview.

Only the Hawks hope this is nothing like they’ll look like in

the postseason.

Johnson, averaging 21.2 points, didn’t travel and will miss his

third straight game Wednesday in Detroit after first being injured

last week. Bibby, who had an ingrown toenail removed on Monday, was

scratched after experiencing too much pain at the morning

shootaround.

Hawks coach Mike Woodson wanted to keep Crawford in his

sixth-man role, so Evans started for Johnson and rookie Jeff Teague

for Bibby.

Neither were impressive early. Teague struggled running the

offense and the Bobcats went at Evans defensively. But the biggest

problem was that nobody could guard Wallace.

He kept getting easy baskets inside and in transition, scoring

14 points in the first quarter. Smith picked up his third foul on

the first of Wallace’s two three-point plays to close the half.

Crawford started the second half, while Teague, in his second

pro start, missed his first seven shots as the Hawks lost their

fifth straight on the road.

“After the first quarter, I thought we competed very, very

well,” Crawford said.

Jackson shot 5 of 9 for Charlotte despite a painful hamstring

injury that kept him out of the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss

to Chicago. It helped the Bobcats improve to 30-9 at home as owner

Michael Jordan took in the game from his front-row seat.

Only Jordan just missed seeing a triple-double, something he

accomplished 30 times.

“Boris,” Wallace said, looking into a TV camera, “I

apologize.”

NOTES: Woodson said Johnson was feeling better and could return

Friday against Toronto. … Bibby was soaking his foot before the

game and said a doctor removed half of his left big toenail on

Monday. “He said it was almost infected, so he had to cut it

out,” said Bibby, who added he hoped to play Wednesday in Detroit.

… Bobcats C Theo Ratliff started, but will miss Wednesday’s game

in New Orleans to attend his grandmother’s funeral. … Bobcats F

Tyrus Thomas dislocated his left thumb late in the game, but

returned to the bench and said he’d play Wednesday. … Hawks C

Zaza Pachulia (hip flexor) sat out the second half.