CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats started with no available centers and finished without their top two point guards. They were overmatched on the boards and made key mistakes late with a makeshift lineup.
And they won.
Nobody has claimed the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot has been pretty, but Charlotte's stunning 87-86 comeback win over the bumbling Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night took the wackiness to a new level.
Thanks to Gerald Henderson's clutch play and 11 straight missed shots by the Bucks to close the game, the Bobcats stayed a game behind Indiana for eighth place in the East. Milwaukee sank to three games back with nine to play.
"It was just remarkable," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said of the frantic finish.
Henderson scored the final seven points, including the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds left. But Charlotte's third straight win wasn't preserved until Brandon Jennings' nightmare fourth quarter ended with two missed layups and a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim.
Continuing an alarming trend of fourth-quarter meltdowns, the Bucks were held without a field goal for the final 5:10 and scoreless for the last 3:52 in their second straight loss.
"It was a must-win game and we came up short," said Jennings, who scored 26 points but shot 2 for 12 in the final quarter. "We had chances to do it and I take it on myself that I should have came up down the stretch and made big plays. But I didn't."
Neither did Andrew Bogut. The 7-footer also scored 26 points, but was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting in the fourth despite a huge size advantage.
Two nights after allowing Chicago to close on a 12-0 run, this may have been an even more bizarre finish for Milwaukee considering what odd lineups Charlotte had on the floor.
Starting center Kwame Brown left Monday afternoon to be with his ill daughter in Georgia. With Joel Przybilla (knee) and DeSagana Diop (Achilles' tendon) already sidelined and Nazr Mohammed traded to Oklahoma City last month, the Bobcats had no centers left.
Bogut carved up Tyrus Thomas in his return from bruised ribs for 18 points in the first quarter. Bogut had 26 entering the fourth with the Bucks ahead 72-65 when they got even more good fortune.
Charlotte starting point guard D.J. Augustin left with a sprained left ankle and backup Shaun Livingston was lost to a bruised lower spine in just over a minute span early in the fourth. The last man standing was Garrett Temple, who was playing in the NBA Development League earlier this month and had appeared in two games with the Bobcats.
"I knew we needed some scoring," Henderson said.
The Bobcats got within 86-85 on Henderson's jumper with 52 seconds left. After Bogut missed a contested layup, Henderson drilled a turnaround from the right wing to put Charlotte ahead 87-86.
Jennings then missed an open driving layup before Henderson grabbed a rebound in a wild scramble and called timeout from the floor. But Jennings then stole Diaw's inbounds pass before missing another layup in traffic.
The Bucks, who held a 46-37 rebounding edge, grabbed the loose ball and Jennings missed a 3 from the left corner. Carlos Delfino then grabbed Milwaukee's 17th offensive rebound, but his tip bounced off the rim as time expired.
"With 11 seconds left to go in the game, if you say you are going to get two layups and a wide-open 3 to win it and you don't even have the ball, you would take that," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "We just couldn't make that."
Henderson, who moved into the starting lineup when Gerald Wallace was traded last month, scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Jackson had 18 points for the Bobcats, who appeared out of the playoff race following a 23-point loss to Indiana last week.
Since then, Charlotte has knocked off Boston, New York and Milwaukee.
"Guys haven't packed it in," Henderson said.
The Bucks' crushing loss marred the return of former All-Star Michael Redd.
When John Salmons picked up two quick fouls, Redd replaced him with 9:54 left in the first quarter in his first appearance in 14 months following his second major left knee injury.
Playing without a knee brace, Redd had two stints in each half. He didn't score, missing all three shots while dishing out four assists in 15 minutes.
"I thought Mike moved around well," Skiles said.
His team, though, is in trouble.
"It's a very tough task for us to stay in the playoff hunt," Bogut said.
Silas wouldn't be surprised if Przybilla, out since March 9, misses the rest of the season. ... Playoff fever hasn't exactly gripped Charlotte. The announced crowd was 12,368.
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