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Bobcats-Magic Preview

Mar 14, 2010 - 5:39 AM By ANTHONY GIORNALISTA STATS Senior Writer

Charlotte (33-31) at Orlando (46-20), 6:00 p.m. EDT

After facing some talent-deficient teams, Orlando has its longest winning streak in nearly four years. Without Gerald Wallace, the Charlotte Bobcats may fit the mold of some of the Magic's recent opponents.

The Magic look to win nine in a row for the first time in nearly a decade and sweep their second straight season series against a Bobcats team that will likely be without their second-leading scorer Sunday night.

Apart from the Lakers, there hasn't been much playoff-caliber competition Orlando (47-20) has beaten during its longest run since April 2006. The Magic's streak has also come at the expense of the Clippers, Chicago, Golden State, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.

That's helped move Orlando within 4 1/2 games of Cleveland for the best record in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Wizards 109-95 on Saturday night, the Magic are in position to win nine straight for the first time since Jan. 30-Feb. 18, 2001.

Orlando has also taken seven straight versus Charlotte (33-31), giving up an average of 86.7 points despite playing two overtime games.

The Bobcats are tied for sixth in the East and have won five straight, but they'll likely have to find a way to get by without Wallace for at least one game.

An MRI on the veteran forward's left ankle Saturday revealed no fractures or ligament tears, but he's expected to sit out against the Magic after sustaining the injury in the closing second of the first half of a 106-98 win over the Clippers on Friday.

Wallace, averaging 18.5 points, hopes to return within a week.

"Obviously, it's different when (Wallace is) on the court because he brings a lot to the team," Charlotte forward Boris Diaw said. "Every game is important from now on. We'll take each game one by one, and try to win every one."

The Bobcats, trying to make the postseason for the first time in franchise history, signed veteran Larry Hughes on Saturday for backcourt depth. Hughes, though, has been nursing a broken finger and probably won't be ready to play for another week.

He was traded by New York to Sacramento last month, then waived by the Kings on Feb. 23.

Charlotte has been trying to bolster its backcourt after losing Flip Murray to the Bulls last month in a trade for forward Tyrus Thomas. Coach Larry Brown coached Hughes in Philadelphia after he was selected eighth overall in the 1998 draft.

Aside from leading scorer Stephen Jackson (21.4 ppg) and Raymond Felton - the team leader in assists - the Bobcats don't have much else at the guard position. Jackson, who has scored 24 in each of his last two games, will need to be an even bigger factor with Wallace hurt.

Jackson, though, is averaging 13.3 points and shooting 28.3 percent in his last three games against Orlando.

Like most perimeter players, Jackson may have trouble driving into the lane against Magic center Dwight Howard, who had 20 rebounds, seven blocks and 10 points in Orlando's 106-95 OT win over Charlotte on Jan. 23.

Howard is coming off another strong performance, posting 28 points and 15 rebounds against the Wizards.