With the franchise’s first postseason appearance in sight, the Charlotte Bobcats are just hoping to stay healthy down the stretch.
The banged-up Bobcats look to bounce back from their latest loss when they host the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
Charlotte (40-36) is seventh in the Eastern Conference with six games to play, but can still finish as high as fifth or miss the playoffs altogether. In their quest to avoid the latter, the Bobcats are trying to overcome nagging injuries to stars Stephen Jackson(notes) and Gerald Wallace(notes).
Jackson has been plagued by hamstring, ankle, elbow and hand ailments. A day after scoring 32 points in a win over Milwaukee, Jackson was held to eight and missed the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 96-88 loss at Chicago. The ninth-place Bulls crept within three games of the Bobcats.
“Hopefully, we get that luxury to (clinch a playoff berth) and I’ll be able to rest a game or two,” said Jackson, averaging 21.3 points in 67 games since Charlotte acquired him from Golden State in a November trade.
“But right now we’ve got to try to continue win and win out.”
The Bobcats are set to play four games in five nights, but Jackson expects to keep playing through the pain. He’s averaging 21.5 points in two games this season against Atlanta (49-27), which has already clinched a playoff berth.
“I’ve dealt with injuries a lot, but not at this magnitude at this part of the season,” Jackson said. “I’ve got to be mentally tough, but I’ll get through it.”
Wallace (18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds per game) hopes to do the same as he tries to play through various injuries. He’s managed to do so thus far, missing only five games this season.
“It’s April, everybody in the league is hurting right now,” said Wallace, who’s scored 45 points in his last two games versus the Hawks. “You want to be sore right now and still playing for something.”
Charlotte likely will need strong contributions from both Jackson and Wallace if it is to avoid a third straight loss to Atlanta, which is trying to win 50 games for the first time since 1997-98.
“Being a 50-win team means you’re pretty good, but we won’t be satisfied with that,” Hawks reserve Jamal Crawford(notes) said. “We’ll continue to try to build on what we’ve done and try to get some steam going into the playoffs.”
While the Hawks are trying to hold on to the third-best record in the East - they lead Boston by one game - they’re also seeking to avoid a fifth straight road loss overall and third in a row at Charlotte. Atlanta is 2-9 all-time on the road against the Bobcats.
Crawford, who shared a team high with 13 points in a 103-83 loss at Charlotte on Nov. 6, had 29 in the Hawks’ 91-85 home win over Detroit on Saturday.
In his first season in Atlanta, Crawford is second on the team with 17.8 points per game, and is a strong candidate for the NBA’s sixth-man award. He’s averaging 26.8 points in his last four visits to Charlotte.
The Hawks also have a key player nursing an injury. Leading scorer Joe Johnson(notes) (21.2 ppg) will miss at least this game and Wednesday’s trip to Detroit after sitting out Saturday with a sprained right thumb.