for this game

Bell, Bobcats win season-high fourth in a row

Mar 4, 2009 - 4:16 AM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Raja Bell was glad he played Tuesday.

Bell - who has been battling a right shoulder strain - scored 18 points to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to their season-high fourth straight win, a 96-80 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Apparently, for a shooter, flexibility is overrated.

"I don't think it's a situation where I'm badly injured," Bell said. "It's just in a weird place that doesn't let me really lift my arm. For basketball purposes, that's kind of inconveniencing."

Raymond Felton had 18 points and nine assists for the Bobcats (26-35), who have pulled within one game of the ninth-place Bulls (27-34) in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race. Milwaukee (29-33) entered the day in the final playoff spot.

Bell was a game-time decision. Instead of watching from the bench, though, the defensive specialist made the difference on the offensive end, saying that he battled through the pain because of the magnitude of the game for the teams.

"It definitely had an effect," he said. "When you still have something to play for and you're playing a team that's jockeying for position with you, you want to get out there and help. It's a fine line between helping your team and hurting your team."

He shot 7-of-11 from the field, nailing both of his 3-pointers.

Known primarily as being an agitator to reigning MVP Kobe Bryant while with the Phoenix Suns, Bell also played physical defense on Chicago's Ben Gordon. The volume scorer netted just 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting.

"I don't know what our course of action is right now," Bell said. "I got it good and warm before the game, and it felt good early. Then, I came out after halftime and it was locked up on me again.

"They were hoping I could play through it, but I'm going to go see (the doctors) now and see what they say."

The Bobcats, who have put together just one other three-game spurt this season, may have found the right rotation. After dropping the first two games of a five-game trip against Western Conference teams, Charlotte responded with three wins to close the trip before Tuesday's triumph.

Felton provided a nice backcourt complement to Bell, committing just two turnovers and adding four rebounds to his normal steadying influence with the ball in hands.

His distribution of that basketball allowed all five starters to score in double figures, including Emeka Okafor, who collected 14 points and 10 rebounds.

"That's the way we need to play," Felton said. "If we keep playing like that, we're going to be just fine. Everybody is sharing the ball and moving the ball and getting great shots. We're playing great team ball right now. It means a lot to our wins right now."

Tim Thomas had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Derrick Rose added 13 and five assists for Chicago, which played without forward Luol Deng (bruised shin).

However, Gordon felt that his team's struggles had more to do with new players on the roster getting acclimated.

"When you make a move at the deadline, you're already 50-plus games into the season," he said. "The guys have to get assimilated into what we do and kind of get comfortable with things.

"Sometimes it is a dropoff. Sometimes it's not. I think the guys we have here, we shouldn't have much of a dropoff. We should be able to pickup where we left off before the trade."

To coach Vinny Del Negro, the answer was much simpler.

"They played harder than we did, and that's why they won," he said.

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