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Bobcats hand Timberwolves 12th straight road loss

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Charlotte Bobcats have had so many teams on the ropes this season, only to fold down the stretch and lose yet another game.

They snapped that trend Tuesday night with a 97-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but coach Bernie Bickerstaff said the Bobcats still have a long way to go.

"We still lack the maturity that when you have control of the basketball game, you can't let anybody take you out of it," he said. "We had a nine-point lead and things started to go awry. We lost our focus."

The Bobcats nearly blew it, but rallied with a 14-2 fourth quarter run to retake the lead. Then Primoz Brezec muscled in a layup with 54 seconds to play, and added a pair of free throws to help Charlotte seal the victory.

But it helped that Charlotte was playing the Timberwolves, who can't seem to win on the road. They lost their 12th-straight, tying a mark for futility set 12 years ago. Minnesota had not lost 12 in a row on the road since March 26-Nov. 8, 1994.

"I think you have to have a focus on the road, a mental toughness on the road, that I think we're trying to find," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "That's the story of our season."

Although they trailed by 10 in the first half, the Timberwolves rallied and led 83-77 with 5:52 to play.

But Charlotte used its big run, starting with Raymond Felton's dunk and ending with Brezec's 17-footer that put the Bobcats up 91-85 with 2:00 left.

Trenton Hassell made a free throw and Marcus Banks scored to cut the lead to 91-88, but Brezec took over from there.

He was in position under the basket for a sharp pass from Brevin Knight, and he shoved it over Hassell and through the hoop for a 93-88 lead. Banks answered for the Timberwolves, but after a series of misses by both teams, Minnesota fouled Brezec coming out of a timeout. He made both free throws for a 95-90 lead with 13.9 to go.

Brezec's late play down the stretch was a boost for the center, who often finds himself benched late in games. But with Melvin Ely out with the flu, the Bobcats had to stick with Brezec and he delivered.

"This helps me keep my confidence up," Brezec said. "Sometimes [Bickerstaff] will leave me on the bench in the fourth quarter, but today he stuck with me."

Kevin Garnett, who had 24 points and 22 rebounds, made a layup at the other end to cut it to three, but Felton was fouled and made both his free throws to put it out of reach for the Timberwolves.

"It's very disappointing -- not just against Charlotte, but against everyone we've played on the road," Garnett said. "It's been tough because we've been in almost every game. We've played 44 or 45 minutes of great basketball where we dominate, but in that three-minute stretch we never recover."

Knight led Charlotte with 24 points and Felton finished with 17. Brezec and Matt Carroll had 14 each. Gerald Wallace, who was held to one point in the second half, had three steals and two blocks.

Ricky Davis had 20 points and Hassell scored 13.

The Bobcats led by as many as 10 in the first half and were up 53-47 at the break. But they couldn't put Minnesota away when they had the chance.

Charlotte led 62-53 when the Timberwolves used a 10-2 run to pull within one. Knight ended the drought for the Bobcats with a layup, but Minnesota took the lead shortly after on Davis' dunk that made it 69-68.

The Timberwolves then took a 71-70 lead into the fourth quarter.

Game notes
The Timberwolves had 54 points in the paint to Charlotte's
38. ... Minnesota is now 8-29 away from home this season. ...
Courtside seating was packed with Charlotte celebrities -- NASCAR
drivers Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers, as well as
Carolina Panthers' receiver Steve Smith and free agent defensive
tackle Brentson Buckner. .... Tuesday night marked the one-year
anniversary of Charlotte rookies Felton and Sean May, and
Minnesota's Rashad McCants leading North Carolina to the NCAA
championship. It was also May's 22nd birthday.