CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Keeping up with all the changes to the Charlotte Bobcats is getting difficult -- from the three trades to the NBA-high 23 players to suit up to the 15 different starting lineups.
But as coach Larry Brown's crew headed for the All-Star break after Wednesday night's 101-89 win over the Washington Wizards, there was a clear sense of confidence in the locker room.
"We get everybody back healthy," guard Raymond Felton said, "I think we've got a great team."
There were numerous contributors that helped overwhelm the banged-up Wizards. Rookie D.J. Augustin scored 24 points and newcomer Vladimir Radmanovic added 21 points. They combined to hit 9-of-17 3-pointers in starting roles.
Emeka Okafor dominated the inside with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Felton came close to his first career triple-double with 15 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
"We had a lot of guys play extremely well," Brown said. "It's a good way to start the break. Hopefully we'll get Gerald [Wallace] back, Juwan [Howard] back and Raja [Bell] back and we've got 30 games left. It's our hope we can try to get better."
There was less optimism on the Washington side. Caron Butler scored 26 points and Antawn Jamison had 23 points and nine rebounds, but they got little help and the Wizards were woeful on defense in their 10th loss in 12 games.
"Groundhog Day," Jamison said. "Defensively we're not getting stops and there were a couple of times we didn't even get a chance to shoot the ball."
They also couldn't stop Radmanovic from a second straight strong game with his new team.
When the Wizards pulled to 69-62 midway through the third quarter, Radmanovic hit two 3-pointers in a 10-0 run. After Jamison's 3-pointer cut Charlotte's lead to 86-77 early in the fourth quarter, Radmanovic took a pass from Felton and buried another 3 from the right corner.
Washington made one final push, getting to 93-87 before Augustin hit two free throws and Radmanovic drilled another 3 to secure Charlotte's second straight win despite playing without starters Wallace (rib, lung) and Bell (groin) and reserve Howard (toe).
"It's been an easy adjustment for me," said Radmanovic, who's hit the shots Morrison had been missing with the Bobcats. "I'm still far away from knowing what we're running, but I'm just trying to find open spots. Obviously guys are looking for me and giving me some really open shots"
With the Wizards missing Brendan Haywood, Andray Blatche and Etan Thomas to injuries and with Darius Songaila at less than full strength, the Wizards often double-teamed the ball, leaving open looks for Radmanovic and Augustin.
"Anytime you double team you're trying to guard four guys with three. Somebody's open," said coach Ed Tapscott, who had a rough night in his return to Charlotte, where he was the expansion Bobcats' first team president. "Vladimir is a very good shooter."
Songaila started at center for Washington after being knocked out of Tuesday's loss to Atlanta in the second quarter with a bruised left elbow from colliding with teammate Juan Dixon. Playing with a sleeve protecting his left arm, Songaila had six points and four rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting but struggled to defend Okafor.
Augustin, paired with Felton in a small backcourt, continued his strong rookie season, while Boris Diaw added 14 points and seven assists.
It even had the Bobcats talking about making a run for a playoff spot despite a difficult closing schedule.
"It's right there," Felton said. "All we've got to do is go get it."
The Wizards, meanwhile, hope to get some of their injured players back. But at 11-42, Butler knows the focus will soon shift to next season.
"You get us all healthy, we can beat anybody, hands down," Butler said. "You get our core together, get a couple guys. Obviously it's trade time, lottery picks. We'll see what happens.
"We can be great next year," he said.
The Wizards dropped to 0-12 against the Southeast Division. ... Bobcats forward Sean May had two points and one rebound in four minutes in his second game after missing two months with conditioning and weight issues. Brown warned before the game that May's "got to be careful and make sure he continues to work" during the All-Star break. ... Bell did some jogging before the game. Bell and Wallace remain hopeful to play Tuesday in Orlando. ... Bobcats rookie guard Sean Singletary will have his jersey retired Sunday at Virginia.
- Tom Washington
- Marc Davis
- Tommy Nunez Jr.