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Magic continues to falter
By wire services
Published March 25, 2005
ORLANDO - The Magic's playoff hopes are shrinking, and not even a home game against the expansion Charlotte Bobcats could stop the slide.
The Bobcats, who had won just twice on the road all season, made it three with a 108-94 victory Thursday night behind 23 points and 10 rebounds from rookie Emeka Okafor.
It was Charlotte's second win over Orlando in the last four days and the third time the Bobcats beat the Magic in four games this season. The Magic has lost nine of its last 10.
Though tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, a game and a half out of the last playoff position, the Magic's recent play makes them a long shot to qualify for the postseason.
"We need some leadership both from the coaching staff and our veterans to say "Hey, listen, we still have a lot of games left," said Magic coach Chris Jent, 1-3 since taking over for Johnny Davis. "People are writing us off, but stranger things have happened. We have to not feel sorry for ourselves but go out there and play a game we love."
While Okafor registered his 36th double-double of the season, he had plenty of help. Gerald Wallace and Primoz Brezec each scored 20 for Charlotte, which broke the game open in the middle of the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run.
The Bobcats led for all but two possessions of the game, but were nursing an 83-82 lead in the fourth quarter when they made their decisive run. Jason Hart, who had 18 points off the bench, started it with a 3-pointer and Okafor finished it with a free throw that made it 95-84 with 3:37 left.
In between, the Magic hit only one of 10 shots and turned the ball over three times. They never got the deficit under eight the rest of the game despite 28 points from Grant Hill. Rookie Dwight Howard had 14 points and 15 rebounds and Jameer Nelson had his first career double-double with 18 points and 13 assists.
GRIZZLIES 105, NETS 96: Lorenzen Wright and Jason Williams each scored 20 points and Memphis shot 70 percent in the first half to end New Jersey's five-game winning streak. James Posey added 12, Bonzi Wells had 11 and Earl Watson and Pau Gasol each had 10 as visiting Memphis won for the ninth time in 12 games. Vince Carter led the Nets with 22.
NUGGETS 117, LAKERS 96: DerMarr Johnson had 20 points and helped slow Kobe Bryant in the second half, leading host Denver past the Lakers to give them their longest losing streak in 11 years. Los Angeles has lost seven straight and dropped 51/2 games behind Denver for the Western Conference's final playoff spot with 14 games left. Bryant scored 14 first-half points, but he wasn't much of a factor down the stretch as Denver pulled away. The Nuggets started off without Marcus Camby (ankle) and Kenyon Martin (chest), then lost Francisco Elson to a sprained ankle early in the third quarter. None of the absences mattered. Denver went on 12-1 run spanning halftime to go up 59-49, pushed the lead to 76-61 on Johnson's 3-pointer with three minutes left and pulled away from there. Earl Boykins had 20 points for the Nuggets.
ROCKETS 99, CAVS 80: Tracy McGrady scored 31 and Bob Sura had 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead host Houston. Mike James had 15 points off the bench and Yao Ming added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets. Houston shot 48 percent, outrebounded Cleveland by 11 and never trailed after the early minutes of the second quarter.
WIZARDS 85, JAZZ 84: Larry Hughes hit a shot from the top of the key to put Washington ahead with 46.4 seconds left in the game and Utah's Keith McLeod missed a layup at the buzzer to give the Wizards their first win at host Utah since 1997. Gilbert Arenas scored 29 and Hughes finished with 25, including what proved to be the game-winner.
KINGS 109, MAVS 101: Peja Stojakovic hit six 3-pointers on the way to a season-high 38 points, and host Sacramento avoided a regular-season sweep by Dallas. Mike Bibby had 17 points and eight assists, while Kenny Thomas scored 15 points and teamed with Darius Songaila to hold Dirk Nowitzki to nine of his 35 points in the fourth quarter.
SONICS 96, BLAZERS 91: Ray Allen returned from an ankle injury and scored 19, and Damien Wilkins filled in admirably after Rashard Lewis left with an injury in Seattle's fourth straight victory. The visiting Sonics had to overcome a furious fourth-quarter Portland rally without forward Lewis, who left early with left knee tendinitis. Portland has lost seven straight and 11 of 12 since firing head coach Maurice Cheeks and replacing him with Kevin Pritchard.