Charlotte Bobcats guard Gerald Wallace (3) dunks as Philadelphia 76ers’ Theo Ratliff (50) and Andre Iguodala (9) look on during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, April 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Raymond Felton scored a career high 32 points and Gerald Wallace added 29 to lead the Bobcats over the 76ers 101-98 on Tuesday.
The Bobcats withstood a rally after they blew a twenty point lead in a night where it seemed like the team fed off the energy of the fans.
“The crowd has been great all year”, said Felton. “They’ve been picking it up from the beginning all the way to the end. The fans here are great and they’re really starting to get behind us.”
They stayed with them even while the Bobcats gave up another big lead and it seemed they would lose another close one in the fourth quarter, that would once again leave fans displeased with calls blaring the referees with post game profanities to express their displeasure.
“We understand what it takes to win (close) games, but now everybody is making that play and making stops”, said Wallace.
“Tonight, we were able to do both. We got the stops when we needed them, we got the rebounds when we needed them and we were able to finish off the game.”
This was one that the Bobcats were determined to pull through. If not for their ecstatic fans, than for their ’hanging by a thin string’ playoff chances in which they virtually have to win out and hope for some help from other teams.
They started off hot scoring a season high 63 points in the first half, including a combined 44 from Felton and Wallace.
“It was just penetration,” said the G-Force. “They’re an athletic team just like we are, and what makes them good is what makes us good. They like to get out on the break, we like to get out on the break. I think they tried to match up with us like that in the first half, and we’re a lot better team at home.”
The 76ers came out in the second half with more energy and built a four point lead into the third receiving key bench contributions with 20 from Louis Williams. Andre Miller led all Sixers with 23, while Andre Iguodala and Willie Green also scored in double figures with 19 and 17, respectively.
“The game was like night and day between the first half and the second half. Our mindset and our intensity levels weren’t there,” said 76ers head coach Tony DiLeo.
“We picked up our energy and our aggressiveness when we came out in the second half. That’s the way we should have played in the first half.”
Raymond Felton air-balled a floater when the Bobcats were down 99-98 but Gerald Wallace was right there under the hoop to put the ball in and the Bobcats ahead for good. A missed 18 footer by Igoudala put the ball back in the Bobcats hands and Wallace made two clutch free throws. A missed three at the buzzer by 76ers Willie Green sealed their fate.
With the loss Philadelphia (40-37) falls to 6th place in the east and a half game behind Miami (41-37) for 5th. The Bobcats are now 35-43, and three games behind Detroit and Chicago (38-40) for the final playoff spot. They own the tiebreaker with Chicago though if they end up with the same record.
Raymond Felton, who seen his alma mater Tar Heels win the National Championship on Monday night, continues to believe in the Bobcats chances.
“We’re still in,” he said. “We’ve got four games left and they’re on the road, so it’s going to be tough, but guys have to step up. We all have to step up together as a team and make things happen.”