Charlotte (22-36) at Portland (24-34)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Portland, OR
Temp: 92° F
  • Game info: 10:00 pm EST Thu Mar 1, 2007
  • TV: N14
Preview | Box Score | Recap

With less than two months left in the regular season, the Charlotte Bobcats and the Portland Trail Blazers are longshots to make the playoffs. Still, both teams have shown improvement.

Charlotte hopes to avoid matching a season high with its fourth straight loss Thursday night when it continues a six-game road trip against the Trail Blazers.

While a playoff spot was surely their goal heading into this season, the Bobcats (22-36) can take the small consolation they will likely finish with more wins than 2005-06.

Five victories in its final 24 games will make this the best of Charlotte’s three seasons since joining the NBA. The Bobcats won 18 games in their inaugural season of 2004-05 and improved to 26 wins last season.

Charlotte recorded its 22nd win of the season on Friday. It didn’t reach that victory total until April 9 last season.

“I think we’re a good team,” guard Raymond Felton said on the Bobcats’ official Web site. “We’re starting to show signs of that. When we win four games out of six or whatever. You don’t want to lose even those two, but we’re learning how to win.”

Despite an outstanding game from Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats dropped to 0-2 on the trip with a 135-120 loss Wednesday night at Sacramento.

Wallace totaled 31 points, nine assists and six rebounds, but couldn’t prevent the Bobcats from losing for the sixth time in seven road games.

Charlotte was without starting forward Emeka Okafor for the second straight game. Okafor, the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, strained his left calf Saturday against Toronto and missed Monday’s 100-93 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said he wasn’t sure when Okafor would return.

After a dismal 2005-06 season resulted in 61 losses, the Trail Blazers revamped their roster this offseason, bringing in rookies Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez while trading away several veterans.

Those moves may not be enough to get them into the playoffs, but the Trail Blazers (24-34) already have three more wins than all of last season, and they are four victories shy of their best season since going 41-41 in 2003-04.

Despite that improvement, Blazers coach Nate McMillan can’t be too happy with his team’s last two games. They followed a one-point loss Friday to league-worst Memphis with a listless performance Monday in a 97-73 defeat at Seattle.

Travis Outlaw led the way with 14 points for Portland, which matched a franchise record with only three free throws made.

“This was one of the worst games we’ve played all season long,” McMillan said. “The sense of urgency was not there. Being connected on both ends of the floor, we were not.”

Leading scorer Zach Randolph was limited to 11 points while shooting just 5-of-13, and Brandon Roy—a rookie of the year candidate—scored six points and made only 3-of-13 from the field.

McMillan thinks the Bobcats may have some extra motivation because his team escaped Charlotte with a 108-100 overtime victory in the first meeting on Feb. 9.

“I’m sure that plays a part of it,” McMillan said on the Trail Blazers’ official Web site. “They thought they were close and should’ve had that game in Charlotte. They need a win too.”

Randolph scored 40 points in the first meeting as the Trail Blazers improved to 4-1 all-time against the Bobcats.

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Thursday, Mar 1