RON SCHWANE / AP Enlarge
CLEVELAND — Charlotte coach Paul Silas said before Tuesday night's game that it wouldn't be easy for his team to make the playoffs.
A few hours later, the Bobcats' chances looked even more difficult following a 99-89 loss to Cleveland. The injury-depleted Bobcats led only once after scoring the first basket of the game and trailed by 21 points in the first half against the worst team in the league.
Charlotte, which is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, trails Indiana by 2½ games for the final playoff spot. The Bobcats, losers of three straight, have five games remaining while the Pacers have four games left.
The latest defeat left Silas in a foul mood.
"We just went through the motions in the first half," he said. "I'm not gonna have that. We're not gonna do that.
While Silas realizes his team is short-handed, he says that's no excuse for a lack of effort.
"I still expect the guys to go out and perform as well as possible," he said. "I expect guys to rise to the occasion. We certainly didn't do that."
Ramon Sessions scored 18 points to pace seven players in double figures for the Cavaliers, who broke a three-game losing streak.
There isn't much going the Bobcats' way these days. Not only have they dressed just nine players in the past two games, leading scorer Stephen Jackson, who averages 18.5 points, heads the injury list. Jackson has missed three straight games because of a strained left hamstring, an injury that could sideline him the rest of the season.
Forward Tyrus Thomas (sore left knee), guard Shaun Livingston (bruised tailbone) and forward Eduardo Najera (back spasms) were also out for the Bobcats.
The upcoming schedule doesn't provide any good news either since Charlotte's next two games are against Orlando on Wednesday night and Miami on Friday night. The players can see their playoff hopes slipping away.
"We aren't going to make the playoffs if we don't come to play," said guard Gerald Henderson, who scored 15 points. "It's unfortunate to start games like that and expect to play in the postseason. It's just not going to happen if we continue to do that these next few games."
"To lose a game like this, it's definitely a winnable game," center Kwame Brown said. "To get down like we did, that was the ballgame. We've got to win every game we can."
D.J. Augustin led Charlotte with 22 points while Matt Carroll added 13.
J.J. Hickson had 16 points and 19 rebounds for Cleveland. Ryan Hollins, who was 7-from-7 from the field, also scored 16 points while Alonzo Gee added 13.
"Obviously, this was a pretty good win for us," Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. "I thought the guys really took up the challenge. We had a lot of guys play really well. I told them for 39 (minutes) and some change, we played very, very good basketball."
Augustin's basket 17 seconds into the game gave Charlotte its only lead of the night before the Cavaliers took over. Cleveland raced to an 18-5 lead and was ahead 34-16 after one quarter behind nine points from Hickson and seven apiece from Baron Davis and Gee.
The lead reached 21 points at 51-30 midway through the second quarter. The Cavaliers led 55-38 at halftime, but Charlotte scored the first 10 points of the third quarter. Cleveland didn't score until Davis' free throw at the 6:40 mark. The Cavaliers didn't get a basket in the quarter until Gee's layup with 5:35 remaining.
Charlotte cut the lead to 68-64 late in the period, but the Cavaliers built the lead back to 14 points early in the fourth quarter.
Davis and Luke Harangody scored 11 points apiece while Daniel Gibson added 10 for Cleveland. Dante Cunningham and Brown scored 10 points apiece for the Bobcats.
Cleveland forward Samardo Samuels missed the game with a strained left groin.
NOTES: Silas returned to Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since being fired by the Cavaliers during the 2005 season. Silas coached Cleveland from 2003-05. ... Cleveland G Anthony Parker was scoreless in 30 minutes, going 0 for 8 from the field. The Cavaliers play at Toronto on Wednesday.