ATLANTA (AP) -- The Charlotte Bobcats are in last place in the
Southeast Division, but they may not feel as if they are looking up
at the Atlanta Hawks.
Raymond Felton scored 27 points, Melvin Ely had 21 and the
Bobcats beat the Hawks 116-110 on Friday night, giving Charlotte
three wins in the four-game season series.
In their two seasons as an expansion team, the Bobcats are 6-2
against the Hawks. With Friday night's win, Charlotte moved to
within a game of Atlanta, leaving the Bobcats a chance to finish
ahead of the Hawks for the second straight season.
That reality hit the Hawks especially hard after their fourth
"That's big for us," Hawks guard Tyronn Lue said. "You
definitely don't want to finish last."
But just by looking at the rosters, it's not easy to tell which
is the expansion team. The Hawks, relying heavily on rookies and
second-year players, are slumping late in the season though they
have 11 more wins than last year, when they hit bottom with a
franchise-low 13 wins.
"They're a good team," Ely said. "Everybody picked them as
the team to lose more games than anybody, and they've proved them
The Bobcats held a 13-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Joe Johnson, who led Atlanta with 35 points, scored with 2:37
left to cut Charlotte's lead to 106-102. Primoz Brezec pushed the
lead back to six points with two free throws, and Alan Anderson's
free throws with 1:16 left gave the Bobcats a 110-102 lead.
Johnson hit a 3-pointer for Atlanta to cut the lead to five and
he hit another 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to cut it to 111-108.
Felton and Matt Carroll each made two free throws in the final
21 seconds to preserve the victory.
Each team has improved on its respective lowly 2004-05 finish.
With 24 wins, the Hawks have almost doubled their franchise-low 13
victories of last season. The Bobcats won their 23rd game Friday
night, five more than last season's 18.
Each team had strong play from rookies from North Carolina on
Friday night. Atlanta's rookie Marvin Williams, whose production
has been inconsistent this season, scored 22 points, including
several jams on strong moves to the basket in traffic.
Felton, who was the Eastern Conference rookie of the month in
February and March, averaged 20 points and six assists in
Charlotte's first three games against Atlanta this season. He had
eight assists Friday night.
The Bobcats also had strong inside play from Ely, who was 10 of
13 from the field, again exposing a season-long defensive weakness
for the Hawks.
"I'd been in a little bit of a slump," Ely said. "The last
couple of games I kind of got back into the swing of things."
Felton and Matt Carroll, who had 17 points, each had three
3-pointers, but the Hawks were hurt more by their inability to stop
the Bobcats' drives to the basket.
"We allowed too many easy opportunities and it's something
we've been harping on the last few games," Lue said.
"Unfortunately it bit us once again. This team was the worst
shooting team in the NBA, and our game plan was to force them to
take nothing but jump shots. But once again they scored too many
lay-ups and had too many points in the paint."
Lue scored 19 points and Josh Smith added 17 for Atlanta.
Atlanta led 33-23 after the first quarter but Charlotte finished
the first half strong for a 55-53 lead and then held the momentum
in the third period.
The Hawks have lost 16 of 20, leaving coach Mike Woodson
"Until we figure out that we're not going to outscore teams all
the time and that we'll have to defend and rebound before we think
about scoring, we're going to be a mediocre team," Woodson said.
"That's something we're going to have to improve on this
Felton has scored in double figures in 35 of the last 41
games. ... Johnson led the Hawks with nine assists but had six
turnovers. ... The Hawks had their third sellout of the season,
with announced attendance of 18,729. ... There was only one lead
change in the game.