Charlotte (32-42) at Orlando (47-28)

By NOEY KUPCHAN, STATS Writer Thursday, Mar 31, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EDT Fri Apr 1, 2011

The Charlotte Bobcats remain very much alive in their pursuit of a playoff berth thanks to a four-game winning streak.

The banged-up club, though, could have a hard time extending its run against its next opponent.

Looking for a season-best fifth consecutive victory, the visiting Bobcats hope to avoid a 10th loss in 11 meetings with the Orlando Magic when the teams meet Friday night.

Ninth-place Charlotte (32-42) defeated Cleveland 98-97 on Wednesday night to remain one game behind Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It was a good win for us,” guard Gerald Henderson(notes) said of the team’s fourth straight victory - three of which have come by two points or fewer.

“All of these games down the stretch, no matter who we’re playing, are all big for us,” Henderson added. “The Pacers won (Wednesday), so it just goes to show that we can’t really worry about what they’re doing. We just have to win our own games and see what happens.”

While the Bobcats have limited opponents to an average of 92.5 points during their run, they’ve made just 11 of 48 (22.9 percent) from 3-point range and have scored only 95.5 points per game.

In contrast, the Magic (47-28) haven’t been able to overcome their recent offensive struggles.

After turning the ball over a season-high-tying 21 times in a 113-106 overtime loss at New York on Monday night, Orlando shot 41.6 percent from the floor in Wednesday night’s 85-82 road loss to Atlanta.

Dwight Howard(notes) was held to 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting after getting into early foul trouble. Howard, though, did record 13 rebounds for his season-best 32nd consecutive double-double.

“Things are definitely hard for us when Dwight gets in foul trouble,” said guard Jameer Nelson(notes), who scored 20 points after sitting out against the Knicks with a sprained left knee. “He’s who we are. We play through him. Offensive and defensively, he’s our guy.”

Howard, who had a career-high 45 points and added 19 rebounds and eight blocks in a 107-102 overtime win over Charlotte on Feb. 17, 2009, isn’t concerned about the club’s lackluster play.

“We’ll be a different team in the playoffs,” Howard told the Magic’s official website. “It’s a different animal in the playoffs. We’re not worried about it and we’re going to play. We’ll be healthy and well-rested.”

Charlotte could have an especially tough time containing Howard with a depleted front line that learned Thursday it will be without center Joel Przybilla(notes) (knee) for the rest of the season. That leaves Kwame Brown(notes) as the team’s only healthy center.

Leading scorer Stephen Jackson(notes) is also expected to miss Friday’s game, along with Tyrus Thomas(notes) and Shaun Livingston(notes), all dealing with nagging injuries.

“We were short-handed (Wednesday) so the guys had to step up and they did,” coach Paul Silas said. “They just won’t give up, and I love these guys and what they’re putting out right now.”

While Jackson, averaging 18.5 points, has been hindered by injury, Henderson has stepped up to average 14.4 points in the last 13 games - 5.7 more than his season mark.

Forward Boris Diaw(notes) matched season bests with 26 points and 11 assists against the Cavaliers.

Guards Chris Duhon(notes) (thumb), J.J. Redick(notes) (abdomen) and Quentin Richardson(notes) (back) are uncertain to play for Orlando.

The Magic have held Charlotte to an average of 87.7 points during their 9-1 stretch in the series. The Bobcats were 3-26 when scoring 90 points or fewer this season before winning their last two.

Orlando has taken 11 of 13 all-time at home against Charlotte - including a 100-86 victory Feb. 27 despite 35 points from Jackson.

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