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Felton returns to game after spraining ankle, motivates teammates

WASHINGTON -- The Charlotte Bobcats appeared to be in big trouble when point guard Raymond Felton was carried off the court with 10:17 left in the third quarter after stepping on a cameraman along the baseline.

But right after Washington took its largest lead of 13 points with 4½ minutes left in the third quarter, Felton returned despite a sprained right ankle, and sparked a 16-2 run in the Bobcats' 92-89 victory Saturday night.

"I felt like when they saw me come back, they were like, 'OK, if he's going to come back and play like this, he's hurt, so we've got to do the same for him,'" Felton said of his teammates. "It gave everybody an extra boost, it gave them motivation."

Raja Bell led Charlotte with 19 points, and Boris Diaw added 18, and Felton had 11 assists.

Washington took the lead early in the first quarter and kept adding on well past halftime. The Wizards' took their biggest lead, 68-55, on Caron Butler's free throw with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Twenty-two seconds later, Felton re-entered the game, and the tide began to turn.

Felton's injury had come just after halftime. He drove the lane and then passed behind him to Emeka Okafor. Felton continued on a path under the basket to clear the lane, but was slightly turned to watch Okafur finish the play when he stepped on a cameraman and his leg buckled beneath him. Felton fell to the ground, and eventually had to be carried off by two teammates.

With Felton off the court, the Wizards lead kept growing. When Felton re-entered the game, the Bobcats started rolling.

Charlotte closed the third quarter with a 14-2 run, and took the lead 30 seconds into the fourth quarter -- 71-70 -- on Juwan Howard's jumper. Felton assisted on each of the final three baskets of the surge, and added another assist on the Bobcats' next field goal.

"For Raymond to do what he did was special," Howard said. "It shows a lot of toughness on his part."

The fourth quarter was back-and-forth. Charlotte took the lead for good on Shannon Brown's 3-pointer to make the score 88-85 with 2:42 left, and hung on through a wild sequence for Washington at the end.

Down 90-89 with 15 seconds left, the Wizards had a chance for the win. Mike James drove the lane but missed the layup, and Andray Blatche missed a tip-in. But Washington was given a reprieve when the ball went out of bounds off the Bobcats.

"I was like, 'Please Lord, please don't let them tip this ball in. Please don't hit no shot,'" Howard said. "I was praying, and my prayers were answered."

The Wizards took the second chance and again squandered it, with Nick Young missing a jumper from the top of the key.

"Nick, a great one-on-one player, fell a little short on the opportunity," said Butler, who led the Wizards with 19 points. "It was a situation at the end where we couldn't get the ball to myself or Antawn [Jamison] at the end for the play that was drawn up. We fumbled the ball and that was the game."

The game matched two of the Eastern Conference's bottom dwellers. Washington lost its fourth straight to drop to an Eastern Conference-worst 7-29, while Charlotte snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 14-24.

The Wizards were given a first-half boost by rookie center JaVale McGee, who had spent the past four games on the bench. McGee had two crowd-pleasing dunks in the second quarter as well as a big blocked shot, and led the team with nine first-half points, but did not score after halftime.

McGee's boost could not compare to the lift Felton gave the Bobcats.

"I didn't expect him to come back. I was really worried about it," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. "Raymond's a special person, and we had no chance if he didn't play."

Although the injury looked bad as Felton was carried off the court, he said there was no doubt in his mind he would be able to come back, given the opportunity.

"Did I think they were going to let me come back and play? I didn't think so," Felton said. "But the Doc looked at it and said it was a mild sprain and he said, 'It's really up to you.' Once he said that, it was a wrap. I was going back out there."

Game notes
Bobcats G D.J. Augustin left the game after aggravating an abdominal strain. "He's pretty sore," Brown said. "Hopefully it's not something that's going to be lingering, but I'm worried about it." ... Wizards F Antawn Jamison came out of the game with a minute left in the first half after banging his knee with another player and walked directly to the locker room. He was back on the floor when the second half started.