The Charlotte Bobcats won their sixth straight game Sunday night and the degree of difficulty on this one may have been the highest of the six: No Gerald Wallace. On the road. Against Orlando, a team that generally cleans the Bobcats' clock.
Yet Charlotte took it, 96-89, and -- as of now -- is a scant .001 ahead of Miami and sits in sixth place in the NBA playoff standings at 34-31. If the playoffs began today, Charlotte would face No.3 seed Atlanta in a first-round series.
I wasn't in Orlando, but watched a good bit of this one on TV, listening to Steve Martin and Dell Curry. Here are 3 things I really liked about the Bobcats' performance:
1) Stephen Jackson, Alpha male. Sometimes, the Bobcats need Jackson to turn down the testosterone a bit. Not Sunday. Without Wallace's high-flying antics, Charlotte needed all the Jack it could get. Jackson always looks like he thinks he's the best player on the court. And even though he isn't a lot of the time, his belief that Charlotte should win games really helps.
2) Defending Dwight. Although Dwight Howard got his -- 12-of-14 for 27 points -- the Bobcats' Theo Ratliff and Tyson Chandler played him well enough that the rest of the Magic really didn't get theirs. And they rebounded well enough against Howard that he didn't just dominate the glass and alter every other Bobcat shot, as Howard is prone to do (Rick Bonnell writes more about this in his fine game story).
3) Boris Diaw. A very effective game for Diaw, who had a relatively quiet 10 points but hit a huge shot in the fourth quarter, went 4-for-5 from the field and had 4 rebounds and 4 assists. The Bobcats were plus-13 when Diaw was on the court.