<
>

Loss drops Hawks into 'lottery race' with Hornets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- One glance at the Charlotte Bobcats
opening day roster made it easy to predict they would be the worst
expansion team ever.

So they set out to prove otherwise. In the process, they
guaranteed themselves of not even having the worst record in the
NBA at the end of the season.

Emeka Okafor had 17 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday night to
lead Charlotte to a 105-84 victory over Atlanta and assure the
Bobcats of finishing higher than the Hawks in the final standings.

"The more wins we have, the more we can make the people look
bad who said we wouldn't win more than nine games this year," said
Melvin Ely, who scored 16 points for Charlotte. "Now we want to
get 20 wins and we won't stop trying to get there."

Charlotte won for the 17th time this season and moved five games
ahead of Atlanta (12-66) with just four games to play.

"We're still motivated, you can see that in our body language
and how hard we play every night," Okafor said.

The loss assured the Hawks of having the most chances for the
No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery. Atlanta will have 250
of 1,000 chances to get the top selection when the league draws to
set the order of the June 28 draft.

The next team will have 199 chances, but the Bobcats and New
Orleans Hornets -- Charlotte's former team -- are still jockeying for
that position.

Despite the lopsided loss, Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said the
Hawks have not hit rock-bottom.

"I can't explain it, we just played this team two nights ago
and their energy level was so much better than ours," Woodson
said. Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans and Malik Allen each scored 12
points for the Bobcats and Jason Hart and Matt Carroll both had 11.

Josh Smith had 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks, while
reserve Tony Delk had 16 and Josh Childress added 12.

Charlotte tried to prove it is a better team than Atlanta -- the
Bobcats beat the Hawks in three of their four meetings this season,
including Monday night's 110-105 victory in overtime -- from the
opening tip.

"I guess they wanted it more than us," Smith said. "We didn't
match their intensity and they blew us out from the start."

The Bobcats scored on their first 10 possessions and continued
to roll to their largest margin of victory of the season.

Charlotte went up 65-38 late in the second quarter for their
largest lead of the season, then kept building on it. The Bobcats
went up by 30 points three times in the third quarter.

"We looked over at the scoreboard and couldn't believe we were
up by 30," Wallace said. "We thought maybe it was on the wrong
side."

Atlanta was able to cut it to 23 points in the fourth quarter,
but never got any closer.

Game notes
Woodson insisted before the game the Hawks weren't
intentionally trying to lose for a shot at the No. 1 pick. "We are
not throwing games by any means," he said. ... Charlotte center
Primoz Brezec is out at least seven days with a foot injury, but
badly wants to return before the season finale next Wednesday. ...
Carroll hosted a local Charlotte boy whose father recently died.
The boy got courtside seats, plenty of team gear and a postgame
meeting with Carroll. Carroll was signed out of the NBDL midway
through the season.