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Bobcats keep playoff hopes alive with win vs. Raptors

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Following an ugly loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, the Charlotte Bobcats knew they had to shore up their defense and take advantage of a favorable upcoming schedule to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The mistake-prone Toronto Raptors became the first victim.

Gerald Wallace scored 25 points and the Bobcats began an important week for their postseason aspirations by beating the Raptors 112-86 on Monday to snap a three-game losing streak.

D.J. Augustin added 15 points for the Bobcats, who moved within one game of the idle Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in the crowded and jumbled race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

With another game against Toronto and home games against the struggling Sacramento Kings and fellow playoff contender Indiana Pacers, the Bobcats are in need of a good week as coach Larry Brown tries to get the franchise into the postseason for the first time.

"We've got to make that happen. We've got to get these wins," said Raymond Felton, who added 13 points and eight assists. "If we play the way we played tonight we'll be just fine."

That wasn't the case Saturday, when the Bobcats allowed the Timberwolves to score 66 points in the first half and shoot 53 percent from the field in a win that made Charlotte's recent six-game winning streak look like a mirage.

Brown spent extra time at a shootaround Monday going over the "principles" of guarding pick-and-rolls. The Bobcats responded by holding the Raptors to 38 percent shooting and forcing 24 turnovers in a game that was decided by halftime.

"That team can score the ball, and for the most part I thought we defended really good," Brown said. "We took care of the ball and got 32 assists. I don't think in my whole career I can remember an NBA game where the most shots taken by one player was 13, and we had seven guys take 10 or more shots."

Wallace was Charlotte's top shooter, hitting 8-of-13 shots and making all eight free throws. He also added nine rebounds and said Monday's extended shootaround helped.

"Let's talk about this. Let's get through this," Wallace said in describing the give and take. "Let's get this thing right so we can get to the next level."

Little went right for the Raptors, who returned to their sloppy ways a day after they snapped a seven-game losing streak with a dominating performance against Indiana.

Chris Bosh had 18 points and 14 rebounds against the Bobcats, but the Raptors trailed by 14 at halftime and 19 in the third quarter before the reserves took over.

"We just seemed to lack a lot of zip from the opening tip tonight," Toronto coach Jay Triano said.

The Bobcats held the Raptors to 37 percent shooting in the first half in racing to a 57-43 lead behind 15 points from Wallace, who had his 20th game of at least 20 points.

Andrea Bargnani, who scored 27 points for the Raptors on Sunday, was just 2-for-7 from the field in the first half and finished with 13 points.

The backcourt couldn't get Toronto going either.

Anthony Parker had 11 points and six turnovers on 3-of-10 shooting. Jose Calderon had eight points, eight assists and four turnovers and picked up a late technical foul.

The Raptors, who had been 2-0 against Charlotte this season, took their 44th loss a year after reaching the playoffs.

"Sometimes we just feel like we're just there and we're not just there," said Shawn Marion, who had 12 points. "It's hurting. I hate losing. It's frustrating for me."

Losing is all the Bobcats knew in their first four seasons. But while they remain nine games under .500, it's put them in the mix for a postseason berth -- if they can avoid any more debacles like against Minnesota.

"We knew we had to come out with a lot of energy," Felton said. "We're trying to do something big here. Every game is like a playoff game for us."

Game notes
The Raptors wore green jerseys for a second straight game in honor of St. Patrick's Day. It included a warmup top with a shamrock that made the Raptors look similar to the Boston Celtics in the layup line. ... Raptors reserve guard Marcus Banks (toe) stayed in Toronto to be examined. ... Bobcats guard Sean Singletary is averaging 17.5 points and center Alexis Ajinca 9.5 points in two games since being sent to Sioux Falls of the NBA Development League. ... Bobcats forward Sean May received loud cheers when he hit two jumpers in the final minute. May has played little because of weight and conditioning issues.