Bobcats keep their edge over mighty Lakers

The Bobcats took their career advantage over the Lakers to a remarkable 7-2 with a comfortable 98-83 win over the Western Conference leaders.

The Lakers' Ron Artest, left, duels with Gerald Wallace.
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Not many teams in the NBA have the LA Lakers' number. Only two, to be exact. The Charlotte Bobcats are one of the clubs with an overall winning record against the reigning NBA champions, with the Boston Celtics - a somewhat more storied franchise - the other. The Bobcats took their career advantage over the Lakers to a remarkable 7-2 with a comfortable 98-83 win over the Western Conference leaders on Friday to gain ground on a play-off spot.

The victory moved the Bobcats (29-31) to within a game of the Miami Heat for the eighth and final play-off berth in the Eastern Conference. It also irritated one of the Lakers' array of stars, Pau Gasol. "They play their game and we seem like we try to play their game, which they're really good at," said Gasol. "We are going away from our strengths, and we have no rhythm and no confidence in what we are doing out there."

Charlotte, who were established in 2004 and were sold recently to a group headed by Michael Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls superstar - pending league approval - were winning for the first time in three games and in doing so handed the Lakers only their third back-to-back loss of the season. "We played with confidence and we didn't back down," said Stephen Jackson, who led the Bobcats with 21 points.

"I think that we were the more aggressive team. I wish we could play against good teams like that every night, maybe we would bring the energy and the fire that we need. "Tonight we hit on all cylinders and we followed our game plan and that's why we got the win." The Bobcats' bench scored 40 points, including 14 from the recently acquired Tyrus Thomas and 12 from DJ Augustin. "He's so long and athletic, and he cares about winning," said Larry Brown, the Bobcats' coach, about Thomas.

Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 26 points but the Lakers struggled from the floor, hitting just 36 per cent of their shots including only three of 18 from three-point range. Elsewhere in the NBA, Tony Parker scored 20 points as the San Antonio Spurs won their third successive game, beating the New Orleans Hornets 102-91. Manu Ginobili had 16 points for the Spurs, who extended their longest winning streak in nearly two months and swept the four-game season series from the Hornets.

Darren Collison had 32 points for New Orleans, including 16 in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets still dropped their fourth consecutive game, their longest skid of the season. The Dallas Mavericks made it 10 successive wins by defeating the visiting Sacramento Bees 108-100. Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Mavericks and the rookie Roddy Beaubois added a career-high 22 points.

Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks' coach, believes that his side's impressive form is making it harder to win as opponents raise their game against them. "When you're on a streak like this, everybody's gunning for you, everybody wants to be the team to take you down," he said. "So you're going to get everybody's best game. We've had some slow starts, but it's something we've been able to overcome many times."

With the victory, the Mavericks clinched their 10th consecutive season over .500. The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the visiting Detroit Pistons 99-92 in a game that was delayed when Rodney Stuckey, the Pistons' guard, collapsed in the third quarter. Stuckey was wheeled off the court on a stretcher after he fell unconscious into the arms of a coach. Play was halted for 12 minutes as the medical staff worked on him, placing an oxygen mask on his face and wheeling him into a hospital-bound ambulance.

Detroit said Stuckey was stable, conscious and breathing on his own but would remain in hospital for observation. LeBron James had 40 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the NBA-leading Cavaliers.