Wizards 97, Bobcats 91
That the undermanned Charlotte Bobcats finally ran out of magic with their makeshift lineups wasn't that surprising. That the costly meltdown came against Washington was.
So much for the Wizards being pushovers away from home.
Andray Blatche had 25 points and 17 rebounds, Jordan Crawford added 23 points and Washington made it two straight road wins while putting a serious dent in Charlotte's postseason hopes with a 97-91 victory Sunday night.
After a 1-35 start away from home that threatened to match an NBA record for futility, the Wizards followed a victory at Utah last week by building a 19-point third-quarter lead in a ragged game in which each team dressed only nine players.
''Back-to-back road wins are nice, but we've played at a pretty high level and had opportunities to win games over the last 10 or so,'' coach Flip Saunders said. ''We've had our best stretch of ball of late.''
It came at a terrible time for Charlotte.
Matt Carroll scored 17 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter for the Bobcats, who remained two games behind Indiana for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot after the Pacers lost to New Orleans. But the Bobcats have only six games left, the Pacers four, and Indiana holds the tiebreaker.
''This definitely hurts,'' Carroll said.
The difference was in the paint.
The Wizards held a 50-39 edge on the glass that included 16 offensive rebounds with the athletic Blatche leading the way to continue a torrid week. Two nights after grabbing 16 offensive boards against Cleveland, his putback put the Wizards ahead 96-88 with 1:43 left.
''I came out with a lot of effort,'' Blatche said. ''I wanted my teammates to follow off my energy.''
After Carroll hit a 3-pointer at the other end and then grabbed a Washington miss, Charlotte's hopes ended when D.J. White tossed up an airball in the final minute.
''When you get down by 18, 19 points and then you try to come back, you have to play perfect basketball and we just couldn't do that,'' coach Paul Silas said. ''We made a push and I commend the guys for that, but it's a huge loss.''
The Bobcats, who again played without top scorer Stephen Jackson, had managed to pull out close victories in four of their previous five games despite odd lineups. But this time, Charlotte got nothing from its front line.
Kwame Brown, the only healthy center, didn't score and grabbed three rebounds. Silas benched Boris Diaw in the fourth quarter after he scored 13 points but struggled defensively.
Carroll did his best with a remarkable 11-of-16 shooting performance to finish one point off his career high.
''In that situation you kind of just want to shoot the ball every time you get it,'' Carroll said.
D.J. Augustin added 21 points, but Charlotte's lack of depth was too much to overcome.
The Bobcats played for the second straight game and seventh time in 15 games without Jackson, who has a chronic left hamstring strain. Sixth man Tyrus Thomas (sore knee), backup point guard Shaun Livingston (bruised tailbone) and reserve big man Eduardo Najera (back) also didn't dress.
The Wizards played a fourth straight game without top scorer Nick Young (bruised knee), then lost Hamady Ndiaye to a knee injury in pregame warmups. Cartier Martin (ankle) joined the long injury list Sunday, too.
Washington did get rookie John Wall back after his one-game suspension for taking a swing at Miami's Zydrunas Ilgauskas on Wednesday. Playing the second pro game in his home state, Wall took part in Washington's third-quarter dunk party.
With a variety of uncontested, highlight-reel jams, the Wizards went on a 21-7 spurt to take a 69-50 lead.
Wall finished with 18 points, but also had six turnovers, and his miscues helped Charlotte get back in the game as Carroll heated up in the fourth quarter.
Still, Washington was able to secure only its 20th win of the season, but second straight and third in four games.
''We're starting to get the mentality where we think we can,'' Crawford said. ''When you think you can win then you can pull it off.''
Notes: Silas is hopeful Jackson will play Tuesday at Cleveland. ... Despite ranking 19th in NBA history in career rebounds, Silas had never been nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame - until now. Josh White, of Gastonia, N.C., recently completed the paperwork to help get Silas on the 2012 ballot. ''He was a tough guy and he did all the dirty work,'' White said. Silas called it a ''nice gesture'' while downplaying his chances at induction. ... Saunders said it's important Blatche gets in better shape this summer. ''I really believe if he can get his weight to the 260s, he can become a very dominant forward,'' Saunders said.