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Bobcats stop Knicks, equal last year's win total

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Charlotte Bobcats just missed
finishing with the NBA's worst record during their expansion
season. If things keep up, they'll avoid the cellar again this
year.

Jumaine Jones scored 28 points to help the Bobcats beat New York
116-109 on Saturday night and edge ahead of the Knicks in the
battle to avoid the worst record in the NBA.

But someone forgot to tell the Bobcats that the mark for
futility was on the line in this meeting.

"I don't even know what their record is," said Gerald Wallace,
who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. "I don't know what our record
is. I just come out and play games every night. It's a battle for
first place in every game we play."

The victory moved the Bobcats to 18-45 and helped them match
their win total from last year's expansion season. New York dropped
to 17-44, a humiliating mark for the team with the NBA's highest
payroll at $123 million.

The Knicks, who won't even get a lottery pick out of this
miserable season because they sent their pick to Chicago in the
trade for Eddy Curry, are confident they'll rise up before it's
over.

"I don't think we want to be the worst team in the league,"
said Stephon Marbury, who had 18 points. "It's not by design. At
this stage in the season we've got to continue to play hard, just
to get better for next year. We're all losers -- whoever doesn't win
the championship."

Even though the Knicks came in on a two-game winning streak,
they really didn't put up much of a fight against Charlotte until
very late in the game.

Charlotte broke open the game midway through the third quarter
with a 14-4 run and went into the fourth up 95-82.

The Bobcats remained in control, building a 106-91 lead. But New
York was able to chip into it at the free throw line, which both
teams visited often during a sloppy game that featured a combined
62 fouls.

"We have a problem understanding that just because we are up 12
or 15 with 3 minutes to go, that doesn't mean the game is over,"
Wallace said. "We just can't do this if we expect to win and be
one of the elite teams in the league."

Steve Francis, Jalen Rose and David Lee hit on six straight,
then Francis scored on a reverse follow slam to cut the Bobcats'
lead to 108-101 with 2:44 to go. Francis followed it with a
wide-open layup under the basket that pulled New York within five.

Primoz Brezec made one free throw for Charlotte, then Rose
scored on a short jumper and, after Raymond Felton's turnover,
Francis converted a fast-break dunk to cut it to 109-107 with 1:13
to go.

Brevin Knight scored out of a timeout for the Bobcats, then
Marbury missed at the other end for New York. Jumaine Jones got the
rebound, was fouled, and made both free throws to make it 113-107
with 38 seconds left.

"We had a horrible quarter in the third quarter ... we had
gotten it down two and it was a long possession and Brevin made a
big shot," Knicks coach Larry Brown said. "Then we missed the
jumper and had some lapses."

The game was sealed moments later when Marbury fell down while
dribbling and fouled Bernard Robinson as the two wrestled for the
loose ball. Robinson made one of two to put Charlotte up by seven
and force the Knicks to foul after every possession.

Felton scored 20 points for Charlotte and Brezec had 18.

Rose led the Knicks with 23 points. Eddy Curry scored 19, and
Francis finished with 16 off the bench.

Game notes
The Bobcats sold out a home game for just the fifth time
this season. ... Both coaches delayed their pregame press
conferences to watch the closing minutes of Boston College's
victory over North Carolina. "Almost had it," Brown sighed of his
alma mater's 85-82 loss. ... Rose was assessed a technical while
sitting on the bench in the second quarter for yelling at an
official. ... Bobcats guard Kareem Rush missed the game with a
stomach virus. ... The Bobcats offered fans a chance to vote on a
new nickname for Wallace, and "G-Force" was the winning
selection.