Bobcats 98, Lakers 83
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
The final seconds ticked down and Michael Jordan slowly rose from his seat. He waited until the final buzzer and then briefly clapped.
Jordan showed little emotion after the Charlotte Bobcats won their first game in three tries since he agreed to buy the team. And why not? Beating the Los Angeles Lakers has become routine for this franchise.
No matter the personnel, coach or even the impending owner, the Bobcats own the defending champions. The combination of Stephen Jackson (21 points) and Gerald Wallace (17 points, 10 rebounds) overcame 26 points from Kobe Bryant on Friday night in Charlotte's 98-83 victory.
``I really don't know,'' Wallace replied when asked to explain Charlotte's seven wins in the past nine meetings. ``You can say that about them and you can say that about Cleveland.''
Indeed, the Bobcats are 3-1 against the NBA-best Cavaliers this season. Oh, and they've lost twice to the six-win New Jersey Nets. It's why they're still a game behind Miami for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
``Those top teams bring out the best and they bring out big crowds,'' Wallace said. ``Come to a New Jersey game and we probably have 500 people.''
Getting more fans in the stands is one of Jordan's top priorities when he's expected to take over as owner by the end of the month. It wasn't a problem Friday, when the sold-out crowd watched the Lakers show little energy a night after a wild overtime loss at Miami.
``We just looked flat,'' Bryant said.
Bryant, who was 9 for 21 from the field, got little help. The Lakers shot 36 percent, committed 20 turnovers and matched their number of road losses (12) from last season.
There were plenty of culprits. Pau Gasol shot 5 for 14, Andrew Bynum 3 for 9 and Ron Artest 1 for 9. Hardly the way to go into Sunday's finals rematch in Orlando.
``I'll probably say something,'' Bryant said when asked if he planned to speak with his teammates.
A reporter followed up with how the tone of that talk will be and Bryant replied: ``What do you think?''
Charlotte had won six of seven in the series before Los Angeles' 99-97 home win last month. But Wallace didn't play in that one because of a sore hamstring, and he was the difference in the game-clinching run this time.
Wallace, who was 0 for 6 from the field in the first half, got hot to start the third quarter. He drained two straight 3-pointers - the second a 30-footer to beat the shot clock - and added a layup as the Bobcats built a 61-44 lead.
Gasol had two turnovers and two shots blocked in the surge in another suspect game a night after coach Phil Jackson left him on the bench for the start of overtime.
``Well, he missed a dunk. I don't know if we were up (five) in the first quarter and everything kind of fell under after that,'' Jackson said. ``I mean, nothing seemed to go right after that.''
It allowed Jordan's first win as owner-to-be to come against his former coach in Chicago.
With the man who is selling the team to Jordan, Bob Johnson, sitting on the other side of the court, Jordan got to see one of his biggest mistakes in his role making personnel decisions, too. Lakers reserve Adam Morrison, the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, didn't take a shot in 4 minutes, most of which came after the game had been decided.
Entering with nine losses in 13 games, Bobcats coach Larry Brown tweaked his rotation. Tyson Chandler (six points, four rebounds) returned from injury and little-used rookie Gerald Henderson (six points, two rebounds) played well.
Henderson guarded Bryant late in the first half, and while once Bryant threw the ball off the backboard and dunked it, Henderson held his own. He didn't go for the All-Star's three pump fakes before Bryant turned it over, leading to Tyrus Thomas' layup that gave Charlotte a 49-43 halftime lead.
It was just last week that Henderson beat Jordan in two games of H-O-R-S-E.
``Maybe that was a blessing in disguise,'' Henderson said, smiling. ``It was just fun to be out there. I haven't had that much fun really since college.''
Meanwhile, the Lakers ensured that there would still be two teams they have losing records against: Boston (120-152) and Charlotte (5-7).
``I think everybody's angry, but we're not angry at the right things,'' Bynum said. ``We might be angry with each other. So that's not always that great.''
NOTES: Bobcats Cs Nazr Mohammed (back) and DeSagana Diop (knee) remained sidelined. ... Jackson was asked about his former player Jordan as an owner. ``I hope it's a success for him,'' he said. He was then asked if he would like to one day own a team. ``God forbid,'' he replied. ... Jackson said Gasol has been ``weak and sickly'' of late, both with his game and his physical condition. Jackson indicated he needs to limit Gasol's minutes.