Charlotte snaps six-game losing streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gerald Wallace took his share of abuse on the court, taking several hard falls and even running into a camera that knocked over the son of NFL All-Pro defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.
But it was nothing compared to the razzing he took from his teammates after Wallace had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to a 102-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
"He's buying dinner! He's a star now!" one yelled in the locker room.
"Makeup! He needs new makeup!" guard Brevin Knight said as he playfully wiped down Wallace's face.
Wallace didn't mind a bit.
"We don't have any superstars on this team," Wallace said. "No go-to guys for clutch time. We have to do a lot of the little things early in the game and stay consistent throughout the game. I think we did a great job of that tonight."
But it all started with Wallace, who opened the game with three offensive rebounds on one possession before closing it with a dunk. He played at a furious pace the entire game, especially over the final stretch when he had an in-your-face block on Wally Szczerbiak that he converted into a fast-break layup to grab the momentum and help Charlotte break its six-game losing streak.
"He did what he had to do, played with a lot of energy," said Emeka Okafor, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds. "That's his style, he's been playing that way from the jump."
Wallace turned it up during a 16-1 run, starting the spurt with a free throw, and he hustled upcourt after blocking Szczerbiak's shot for a layup that drew a foul. His free throw made it 87-81 with 2:26 to play.
Wallace then stole the ball from Eddie Griffin, and Knight fired it back to him for a rim-rattling dunk. Melvin Ely added consecutive baskets for the Bobcats, who spread their lead to 93-81 as the Timberwolves went over five minutes without a field goal.
Wallace played so well -- he finished 7-of-10 and went 6-for-8 at the line -- that the public address announcer named him the player of the game with 1:10 to play.
"I just tried to come out and be aggressive and fight," Wallace said.
Keith Bogans scored 16, Jason Hart had 13, Ely 12 and Kareem Rush 11.
Kevin Garnett had 23 points and 20 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost its fourth straight. Sam Cassell scored 20 and Szczerbiak had 13 points.
"Right now we are finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win," coach Flip Saunders said. "We're just trying to make too many great plays. We are passing the ball like we are up 20 points."
Latrell Sprewell did not play the entire fourth quarter and scored just four points.
"I think we know that Kevin is the anchor for this team," Sprewell said, "but guys like myself, we've just go to play better."
Charlotte got a lift from Bogans, who was benched in favor of Rush before the game because coach Bernie Bickerstaff felt Bogans wasn't providing enough offense.
But Rush was flat at the start, and Bickerstaff sent in Bogans.
Bogans, who had started nine consecutive games before being benched, shot 4-for-9 with five rebounds and three assists in the first half to help Charlotte to a 43-40 lead.
Rush didn't make his first basket until he hit a 3 early in the third quarter. After Cassell's 22-footer gave Minnesota a 60-52 lead, Bogans came to the rescue again, hitting a 3-pointer and a jumper to get the Bobcats back in the game.
"I wasn't playing well and Kareem has been playing well, so coach gave him the start," Bogans said. "I just take the backseat and wait for my time."