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Expansion Cats finish with 18 wins, take 4 season series

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Emeka Okafor left the court for the final
time as a rookie without his shirt or shoes, everything given away
to the fans who cheered the Charlotte Bobcats on to a victory in
their season finale.

Okafor had 16 points and 19 rebounds as Bobcats closed out their
inaugural season with a victory, snapping the Detroit Pistons'
11-game winning streak with a 97-86 win Wednesday night.

"It's just great to go home like this, with a win and on a good
note," Okafor said. "We didn't win a lot of games this year, but
we played hard in all of them and it's great to get a reward in the
last one."

Actually, the Bobcats won more games than anyone predicted. They
finished 18-64, equaling the number of wins Orlando had in 1989-90
and bettering the first-year marks of Vancouver, Miami and Dallas.

Charlotte won four season series, including the three-game set
against the Pistons. Charlotte went 2-1 against the defending NBA
champions.

"They did a lot better than people expected," Detroit forward
Tayshaun Prince said. "I feel the main reason is because they
played hard. Everybody in the league knows that no matter what the
score is, Charlotte plays hard regardless."

Okafor, in a close race with Chicago sixth-man Ben Gordon for
the NBA's rookie of the year award, ended his bid with his 47th
double-double of the season.

Keith Bogans finished with 17 points for the Bobcats, Melvin Ely
had 15, Brevin Knight had 14 points and 13 assists, Jason Kapono
finished with 12 points and Gerald Wallace had 11.

Prince scored 13 points for the Pistons. Ben Wallace added 12
points and 10 rebounds and Ronald Dupree finished with 13 points.

"I'm glad this game is over," said Detroit coach Larry Brown.
"We start a new season now, and hopefully we'll approach it the
same we did last year."

Detroit, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, will face
Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.

Long after their own game was over, Brown, Richard Hamilton and
other members of the Pistons staff sat around a television in the
tunnel of the Charlotte Coliseum watching the Bulls play the
Pacers.

"Man, this is a war," Hamilton said. "It's going to the
end."

Brown stayed until the start of the fourth quarter, then headed
to the bus.

"I can't take it anymore," he grumbled.

The Bobcats played with one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard
because Charlotte holds Cleveland's first-round draft pick, a
lottery pick because New Jersey beat Boston on Wednesday night to
end the Cavs' playoff bid.

"This win, the fans, getting that lottery pick ... we deserved
something good to happen to us," Charlotte coach Bernie
Bickerstaff said.

The game also marked the final NBA game in the Charlotte
Coliseum, which opened in 1988 for the Hornets and was filled to
capacity night after night as the team led the league in attendance
for seven consecutive seasons.

But the Bobcats will move into a new $265 million arena next
fall and abandon the outdated Coliseum. After receiving a standing
ovation from the crowd at the end of the game, the Bobcats marked
the occasion with a tribute video to the fans, then returned to the
court to hand out jerseys, shoes and hats to selected fans.

Game notes
The Pistons placed Hamilton on the injured list before the
game with a facial laceration. ... Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace
did not play because of a strained hamstring. ... The Bobcats
turned the game into Fan Appreciation Night, giving away $200,000
in prizes throughout the game, including a new Mercedes and a trip
to the Bahamas. ... With Charlotte center Primoz Brezec in street
clothes with a sprained ankle, he had plenty of time to check on
the scores of the Nets and Cavaliers games during timeouts.

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