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Raptors-Bobcats Preview

Mar 29, 2010 - 3:46 AM By MATT BECKER STATS Senior Writer

Toronto (35-36) at Charlotte (38-34), 7:00 p.m. EDT

The Charlotte Bobcats have created some breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race by taking advantage of an easy portion of their schedule.

The Toronto Raptors haven't been as fortunate, losing to much stiffer competition and consequently dropping in the standings.

In a matchup between the East's seventh and eighth-place teams, the Bobcats look to win a fourth straight game Monday night when they host the slumping Raptors, who try to avoid losing their fourth in a row.

Charlotte (38-34) and Toronto (35-37) were tied for seventh in the East last Monday, but are now separated by three games. The Bobcats have pulled within one game of sixth-place Miami, while the Raptors now lead ninth-place Chicago by only a half-game.

Charlotte is in this position thanks to a favorable stretch of games. After losing at Atlanta and Miami last week, the Bobcats came away with two wins versus sputtering Washington and Western Conference-worst Minnesota.

In Friday's 107-96 victory over the Wizards, Gerald Wallace scored 23 points and Stephen Jackson added 20 to help the franchise move four games above .500 for the first time in its six-year history. Raymond Felton added 19 points and matched a season high with 11 assists for Charlotte, which shot a season-best 55.4 percent.

"It's great to get back some momentum," said Wallace, who has back-to-back 20-point games for the first time since Feb. 22 and 24. "We lost two big games on the road against Atlanta and against Miami, so that kind of crushed us. Then we got a win (in Washington) and we were able to come back home and get things started back up the right way. Hopefully it will build our confidence and we'll be strong finishing out the season."

While the Bobcats were facing teams this past week with a combined 35-111 record (.240 winning percentage), the Raptors squared off against Utah, Denver and Miami - teams a combined 136-86 (.613) - and lost all three.

Toronto was blown out by the Jazz on Wednesday, but the losses to the Nuggets and the Heat were heartbreaking.

Denver beat the Raptors 97-96 on Friday on Carmelo Anthony's 18-foot fadeaway at the buzzer, and Miami overcame a 17-point third-quarter deficit to hand Toronto a 97-94 loss on Sunday.

Chris Bosh believes every loss stings, but these were especially painful.

"I'm always deflated after a loss," he said. "I felt we should have won both games but we didn't."

The Raptors' offense has looked a bit sluggish during this skid, failing to reach triple digits in all three. Toronto, which scored at least 100 points in a franchise-record 20 straight games earlier this season, is now 5-18 when it doesn't hit the century mark.

Getting things turned around could prove to be difficult against a Bobcats team that has held each of its last 13 opponents under 100 points, a franchise record.

Toronto's offense got the better of the Bobcats in a 107-103 home win Dec. 30, but had a season low in points in a 116-81 loss at Charlotte on Nov. 25. Bosh had 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting in the victory, but missed 9 of 14 shots to finish with 18 points in the defeat.