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Coleman Leads Charlotte To Win

The Charlotte Hornets will take a win anyway they can get it these days.

Just when it looked like the Hornets were about to falter down the stretch, Derrick Coleman hit the go-ahead free throw with 16.8 seconds left and then blocked Doug Christie's layup in the closing seconds to lift Charlotte to a 91-88 win over Toronto on Monday.

Coleman finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hornets. It was Coleman's sixth double-double this season.

"I think the major difference in the game was Derrick Coleman," Hornets head coach Dave Cowens said. "He was strong all night and he definitely gets the game ball."

David Wesley chipped in 21 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals for the Hornets (3-9). J.R. Reid added 20 points.

Charlotte nearly blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead as Toronto's Dee Brown, who was scoreless entering the fourth quarter, brought the Raptors to 88-86 after hitting his fifth straight 3-pointer with 3:18 left.

After a wild shot by Charlotte's Bobby Phills, Toronto's Vince Carter knocked down a 17-footer to tie the game with 1:10 left, and the moans cascaded from the Coliseum crowd.

Carter had a chance to put the Raptors ahead after Wesley missed, but he couldn't convert a layup with 37.3 seconds left.

Coleman hit just one of two free throws with 16.8 seconds left in regulation.

The Raptors called timeout to set up Christie in isolation against Phills. But as Christie drove the lane, Coleman came from the weak side to block his shot into the corner, where Wesley grabbed the loose ball and was fouled with 1.4 seconds left. Wesley hit two free throws for the final margin.

"I thought Bobby Phills did a good job of cutting Doug Christie off," Coleman said. "I just wanted to come over and get a piece of the ball and get a block. I thought it was a difficult shot for him. I just didn't want to let it hit the rim and let somebody get a tip in."

Carter, a rookie in his first game in North Carolina since leaving the Tar Heels, finished with 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting and had nine rebounds.

"I made the decision to come out and I stuck with it," Carter said about the lockout-shortened season that started last month. "It did make it tough watching Carolina do well early in the season. But the wait was worth it. It's a real opportunity for me and I'm learning every day."

At one point, Carter got a little overanxious and was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.

"Vince is a physical talent," Raptors coach Butch Carter said. "He plays on emotions and makes talented plays, though sometimes he does the things rookies do."

The Raptors were led by Brown, Christie and Carter, all with 15 points. John Wallace had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Charlotte took advantage of 10 Toronto turnovers and 14 points and 10 rebounds in the opening half by Colman to build a 48-42 halftime lead.

The Hornets say they're trying to stay positive despite losing Anthony Mason, the team's rebounding leader, and top scorer Glen Rice to injuries.

"We're supporting each other," Coleman said. "We all know that we're undermanned. But we're not going to go out there and lay down. We're going to compete hard just like we did tonight."

Notes: The Hornets are 3-0 this year in games decided by three points or less ... Charlotte is 8-1 when it holds Toronto under 100 points ... Reid scored in double figures for the eighth time this season ... Rice and his wife, Christy, had their first child, Brianna Christina Rice.

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