NBA: Wallace, Bobcats beat up on hurting Hawks 109-100
By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gerald Wallace scored 28 points, Boris Diaw nearly had a triple-double, and the Charlotte Bobcats ensured their first non-losing season in their six-year history with a 109-100 victory over the banged-up Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
Diaw had 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while a gimpy Stephen Jackson added 15 points for the Bobcats (41-36), who inched closer to their first playoff berth and can finish no worse than .500.
Atlanta's hopes of reaching 50 wins for the first time in 12 years were squashed as it fell behind by 20 points after the first quarter.
Maurice Evans scored 20 points and Jamal Crawford added 18 for the Hawks, who played without top scorer Joe Johnson (sprained thumb) and point guard Mike Bibby (ingrown toenail).
The Bobcats took advantage, building leads of 34-14 after the first quarter and 59-36 at halftime behind Wallace, who had 22 points at the break.
Atlanta got within nine on several occasions in the fourth quarter, but Wallace and Diaw were there to end the Hawks' comeback hopes as Charlotte split the season series in a possible first-round playoff preview.
Atlanta (49-28) entered the night a game ahead of Boston in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. But the Hawks came to town short-handed.
Johnson, averaging 21.2 points, didn't travel with the team and will miss his third straight game Wednesday in Detroit after first being injured last week. Bibby, who had an ingrown toenail removed on Monday, was scratched after experiencing too much pain at the morning shootaround.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson wanted to keep Crawford in his sixth-man role, so Evans started for Johnson and rookie Jeff Teague for Bibby.
Neither were impressive early. Teague struggled running the offense and the Bobcats went at Evans defensively. But the biggest problem for Atlanta was that nobody could guard Wallace despite his nagging shoulder injury.
He kept getting easy baskets inside and in transition, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Josh Smith picked up his third foul on the first of Wallace's two three-point plays to close the half.
Crawford started the second half, while Teague, in his second pro start, missed his first seven shots. Smith added 18 points for the Hawks, who lost their fifth straight on the road.
Jackson shot 5 of 9 for Charlotte despite a painful hamstring injury that kept him out of the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Chicago. It helped the Bobcats improve to 30-9 at home as owner Michael Jordan took in the game from his front-row seat.
NOTES: Woodson said Johnson was feeling better and could return Friday against Toronto. ... Bibby was soaking his foot before the game and said a doctor removed half of his left big toenail on Monday. "He said it was almost infected, so he had to cut it out," said Bibby, who added he hoped to play Wednesday in Detroit. ... The Hawks may not be publicly saying it, but Bobcats coach Larry Brown said "it's a big thing" to get the No. 3 seed. "Most people are saying they'd rather meet Cleveland in the conference finals," he said. ... Bobcats C Theo Ratliff started after missing practice Monday following the death of his grandmother. ... Bobcats F Tyrus Thomas dislocated his left thumb late in the game, but returned to the bench. ... Hawks C Zaza Pachulia (hip flexor) sat out the second half.