SALT LAKE CITY - The Charlotte Bobcats first season has been miserable on the road, where the expansion team won just once it its first 20 tries.
And facing an 11-point deficit in the final quarter without rookie star Emeka Okafor made it look more bleak for the Bobcats. But Charlotte rallied for one of the biggest wins in the team's short history, beating the Utah Jazz 109-105 Tuesday night.
"It's just good for the guys, just to reach down and compete when you're undermanned and that's what this team does all the time," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.
Competing all the time is one thing, but this time the Bobcats did came out with a win, just the 10th in franchise history. It also guarantees that Charlotte will not tie the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in NBA history - 9-73.
"It rules out the Philadelphia Syndrome," Bickerstaff said with a laugh.
Gerald Wallace scored 28 points and Brevin Knight added 21 points and eight assists and they combined to lead the fourth-quarter comeback. Jason Kapono added 12 points off the bench for the Bobcats, who trailed 89-78 in the fourth quarter but rallied to improve to 2-19 on the road.
"We just continued to press. We wanted to push the ball at them as much as possible," said Knight, who had 11 points and four assists in the final quarter to go with Wallace's 10 points.
"Defensively we did a good job. We stopped them. We got rebounds," Knight said. "I'd like to have a lot more (road wins), but we'll get them."
The Jazz continued to slump despite a season-high 27 points and career-best 10 assists for Andrei Kirilenko. Gordan Giricek scored 21 for Utah, but missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds that could have won it for the Jazz.
After Giricek's shot clanged off the rim, Primoz Brezec got the rebound and threw a long pass to Wallace, who punctuated the win with a dunk with 1.7 seconds remaining.
"We just played more aggressive and I think the more aggressive we got, the more comfortable we got," Wallace said.
Okafor went on the injured list Tuesday with a sprained ankle, but the Bobcats gained a little confidence knowing they could win without the second overall pick in last summer's draft.
Charlotte made 13 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and was 7-for-9 from the line while winning on the road for the first time since beating Houston 90-87 on Dec. 22.
Kirk Snyder, who came off the injured list earlier Tuesday, tied his career high with 13 points and Howard Eisley scored 12 for the Jazz, who lost their third straight and fifth in six games. Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Carlos Boozer had nine points for Utah.
Utah looked like it had put away the pesky Bobcats early in the fourth, but Charlotte never fell behind by more than 11 and kept slowly cutting into the lead. Knight led the Bobcats to within a point twice before Melvin Ely tied it at 101 with 2:41 remaining on a three-point play, drawing a foul by Collins, and Wallace put the Bobcats ahead with two free throws.
Kirilenko put the Jazz right back ahead with a three-point play, but Ely answered that with a hook shot to give Charlotte a 105-104 lead.
The Bobcats pulled down a defensive rebound, but Utah got a break when Jason Hart was called for a foul. Kirilenko went 1-for-2 from the line to tie it again with 48.8 seconds remaining.
Knight made one of two free throws with 36.8 seconds left to put Charlotte back ahead 106-105 and the Bobcats shut down the Jazz at the other end.