CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The play broke down and Portland nearly
lost the ball, so it was up to Nick Van Exel to bail out the Trail
That's exactly what he did.
Van Exel's 29-foot desperation heave at the buzzer gave Portland
an 80-77 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night.
"I was expecting to get the ball, but with the way they
defended, it was taking away a couple of options and we had to
improvise," Van Exel said.
Van Exel was trapped near midcourt on the final possession
before throwing a pass on the left sideline to Derek Anderson. He
flipped the ball through a double-team back to Van Exel, who
drained an off-balance 3-pointer from the left wing after going
7-for-40 in the past four games.
"I kept calling (Anderson's) name," Van Exel said. "He had
the vision to look at the clock. Usually a guy would just shoot it.
He realized he had time and kicked it out."
It was the seventh consecutive loss for the Bobcats -- and the
second in a row on a 3 at the buzzer. On Sunday, Tim Thomas got a
friendly roll on a 3-pointer to give New York a 102-99 victory.
"It's hard to believe that could occur back-to-back, but there
it is," Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "We made a bad
decision and Van Exel did what the veterans do."
Portland won despite playing without leading scorer and
rebounder Zach Randolph, who missed his eighth game since January
with recurring pain in his right knee.
Jason Kapono, who had been 0-for-5, hit a 3-pointer with 9
seconds left to tie the game after the Bobcats trailed by five
earlier in the quarter.
"You really have something you can build on because the guys
know they're just one possession away," Bickerstaff said.
Charlotte played without leading scorer and rebounder Emeka
Okafor, who missed his second straight game and seventh in eight
games with a sprained left ankle. Starting point guard Brevin
Knight was out with a sprained right ankle.
Primoz Brezec returned after missing two games with a bruised
left knee. Playing with a white wrap that covered most of his leg,
Brezec had 10 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
Wallace had two thunderous dunks in a 10-0 run that gave
Charlotte a 62-55 lead with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
But as has been the case with the young expansion team, the
Bobcats quickly let the lead slip away. Portland scored the next
eight points and built a 71-66 lead with 5:26 to go.
Bickerstaff doesn't believe there will be much activity
around the NBA before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. "I don't see
teams making deals just to make deals. I think this is a year that
you assess your team," Bickerstaff said. ... Valentine's Day
wasn't a hit for the Bobcats. The attendance of 9,213 was the
lowest of the season and rivaled the disappointing crowds during
the Hornets' final season in Charlotte.