Bobcats victory snaps Hawks' three-game win streak

ATLANTA (AP) -- After missing the first seven games of the month with a shoulder injury, Gerald Wallace wasn't sure he would have a good shooting touch in an unexpected start on Friday night.

He decided to focus on rebounding instead and in the process found his shooting touch, sparking Charlotte with 18 points and a season-high 15 rebounds in the Bobcats' 96-75 victory over the listless Atlanta Hawks.

Emeka Okafor also posted a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds as Carolina ended the Hawks' three-game winning streak.

Wallace and Okafor were dominant from the opening minutes, and the Bobcats outrebounded the Hawks 47-31.

"They came out, hit us first and kept on hitting and we never retaliated," Hawks center Lorenzen Wright said.

Wallace, playing his first game since separating his right shoulder Dec. 30, was not expected to start until center Primoz Brezec reported a stiff back before the game.

"I was having trouble getting my arm up over my shots, so I had to find another way to help the team win," Wallace said. "So I tried to get as many rebounds as I could until my shots started falling and I got comfortable with my arm situation."

Wallace finished one under his career high of 16 rebounds set against San Antonio on Jan. 23, 2004, but said he was worried when told he would be starting.

"I didn't feel like I was going to be that effective because I haven't played that much, conditioning-wise," Wallace said. "I just hoped I don't get hit on (the shoulder) too hard."

Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff was surprised by Wallace's production.

"The part that I was impressed with was that his rebounding early in the game got us possessions," Bickerstaff said. "And that's how you get points. You got to get possessions."

When Charlotte led 38-32 in the second quarter, Wallace already had 12 rebounds -- matching the Hawks' total at the time. He finished the first half with 13.

"He was a bad matchup for us," Wright said. "We couldn't keep him off the boards."

The Bobcats, who won three of four against the Hawks last season when the teams tied for last in the Southeast Division, evened this season's series at 1-1. The teams play again Saturday in Charlotte.

The Bobcats also were without starting guard Raymond Felton, who was held out with a sprained ankle. Another guard, Brevin Knight, missed his 10th straight game with an abdominal muscle tear.

Even so, the Hawks had no answer for Wallace and Okafor.

"Between Okafor and Wallace, they dominated the game," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who called his team's loss "unacceptable."

"They made every hustle play and grabbed every rebound and got to every loose ball," he said.

The Bobcats led 53-31 at halftime and kept the lead in double figures the rest of the game. After leading 69-57 late in the third period, Charlotte put the game away with 14 unanswered points, a streak that stretched into the final period.

Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 19 points and six rebounds.

Josh Smith added 14 points and four blocks for Atlanta, but had only four rebounds.

"It's definitely disappointing and frustrating to know we have the ability to play so well and come out with this kind of performance," said Atlanta's Josh Childress, who had 12 points.

"We had no energy, no effort, from top to bottom," he said. "They just beat us up."

Adam Morrison added 19 points for the Bobcats. Matt Carroll had 12 points and Jeff McInnis, starting for Felton, added 10 points.

Game notes
Hawks starting point guard Speedy Claxton said he hopes to return from a sore left knee next week. The Hawks also continue to play without guard Tyronn Lue, who is recovering from a strained groin. ... Hawks center Zaza Pachulia, still recovering from an ankle injury, had six points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. ... Wright, who started at center, had only two points and two rebounds for Charlotte. ... The Bobcats improved to 6-12 in road games.