Nets can't close gap as Bobcats surge to fourth win in five games

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A little more than two weeks after acquiring Boris Diaw and Raja Bell from the Phoenix Suns, the Charlotte Bobcats are showing signs that they can be a good team.

Raymond Felton scored 22 points, Emeka Okafor added 21 and the new-look Bobcats won for the fourth time in five games with a 95-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.

"We're starting to play more and more team ball and the wins are coming," said Okafor, who added nine rebounds and two blocked shots. "This is definitely encouraging. We had some decent stretches where we played well, and had a couple of breakdowns, where we were tested and they came back within striking distance. But we were able to keep our resolve and win the game."

Diaw and Felton both hit clutch late baskets as the Bobcats held on after seeing a 15-point third-quarter lead dwindle to two points in the waning minutes.

Diaw, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, drove the lane for a basket with 3:01 to play after the Nets' Devin Harris hit a layup to cut the Charlotte lead to 83-81.

"The play was just there," said Diaw, who added a team-high seven assists. "Everybody on the floor should be able to do that and score any time. We have confidence in each other and we play together. We feel like we are playing pretty good right now."

After Diaw's basket, the Nets had five shots on their next possession but they could not get one to fall.

Felton then came down and hit a jumper, and Gerald Wallace, who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, made three free throws after being fouled by Nets center Brook Lopez on a 3-point shot.

"We're finding ways to end games," said Felton, who was 6 of 11 from the field in helping the Bobcats shot 50 percent. "If we continue do that, we are going to continue to win more games."

Vince Carter had 19 points to lead the Nets, while Lopez and Harris added 14 apiece.

The win was only the third (3-9) on the road this season for the Bobcats, who didn't have a lot of time to practice with Diaw, Bell and Sean Singletary after shipping Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to Phoenix.

New Jersey is now 5-11 at the Izod Center this season.

"It's just about playing right now," Carter said of the poor home play. "It's not about worrying about the past, we're conscious of it, conscious of slow starts in the third or whatever. Now it's just let's go play basketball, play to win. We know we've had the slow starts in the third. But we've shown we can still find a way to win games here. That's what we need to worry about and build off."

The Bobcats, who constantly found the open man underneath with pick and rolls, seemed to take command with a 31-11 spurt that bridged about the final nine minutes of the first half and the opening minutes of the third quarter.

A shot in the lane by Diaw gave them a 54-41 lead early in the third quarter and a free throw by Felton later pushed the margin to 67-52 with 2:55 left in the period.

Bobby Simmons, who missed the last two games while awaiting the birth of his daughter, came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer to spark a 23-11 spurt that got the Nets to within 78-75 on a dunk by Keyon Dooling with 6:50 left in the game.

Two free throws by Okafor, who had nine rebounds, and a 3-pointer by Wallace pushed the lead back to 83-75.

Harris scored six straight points to close the gap to two points but that was as close as New Jersey would get.

Game notes
Trenton Hassell started his fourth straight game at small forward for Simmons, who also missed a game with a bruised shoulder. ...The Bobcats are 9-3 when leading after three quarters. ... Bell is 9-for-9 from 3-point range in two games at the Izod Center this season. He was 6-for-6 playing for the Suns in a 114-86 win early this season and he hit all three of his long-range tries on Friday night. ...New Jersey is 4-12 when trailing after three quarters. ...The teams will play again in Charlotte on Saturday night.