Bobcats 99, Rockets 89
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
Boris Diaw arrived at the arena about two hours before tipoff riding a Segway. He maneuvered the motorized two-wheeler through the halls and drove it straight into the locker room.
It fit right in with the forward's eccentric, laid-back personality. It allows him to never get rattled, but his easygoing style at times can infuriate his teammates.
On Friday night, Diaw was aggressive and focused, showing his versatility in scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and fueling the Charlotte Bobcats' comeback in their 99-89 victory over the slumping Houston Rockets.
''When Boris plays like that we're hard to beat,'' said Gerald Wallace, who shook off a poor shooting night to add 21 points and 14 rebounds. ''We tell him that every night. He thinks pass first and shoot second. We want him to think shot first and pass second. Because when he's aggressive we're a whole lot better as a team.''
With owner Michael Jordan sitting courtside, the Bobcats dominated the second half, with Diaw doing a little bit of everything. He hit 9-of-14 shots to make up for Wallace's 6-of-21 night.
And as usual, Diaw just shrugged about his big role as Charlotte rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to end a two-game losing streak.
''It depends on what the defense is doing,'' Diaw said. ''If they make me shoot I'm going to shoot the ball.''
Shooting is what did in the Rockets, who wilted in the second half under a barrage of bricks.
Chase Budinger scored 19 points off the bench and Kevin Martin added 16, but they combined to shoot 12 of 32 from the field. The Rockets lost for the fifth time in six games as they play without the injured Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks.
''It's a make-or-miss league. By that, when you miss shots, the sky is falling down,'' said Shane Battier, who was 1 of 9 from the field. ''When you make shots everything is honky-dory. Sometimes it is as simple as that.''
Things sure looked simple for Diaw.
He scored on a post move, a mid-range jumper and a driving layup in just over a minute to put Charlotte ahead 82-76 with 7:03 left. After Budinger's two free throws cut the deficit to two, Diaw hit another jumper, scored in the lane and then grabbed a contested rebound that led to Stephen Jackson's clinching 3 in transition to make it 93-82 with 2:41 left.
''He brings so much - when he's aggressive,'' Wallace said of Diaw. ''Be aggressive, look to attack. Don't be laid back and sassy and look to pass.''
Jackson added 16 points and Nazr Mohammed had 15 points and seven rebounds two nights after he was benched for a smaller lineup in a loss to New York. It was a needed win for the Bobcats, whose early season struggles contradicted Jordan's bold proclamations that they were a better team than last season.
Jordan, who sits at the end of Charlotte's bench, was animated in the first half.
''I heard my owner say 'We have to start guarding,''' coach Larry Brown said. ''I think he's pretty knowledgeable. I don't think we guarded great the first half.''
The second-half defensive intensity wore down the Rockets, who wasted a good start.
Budinger, shooting 18 percent from 3-point range coming into the game, buried 3 of 5 in the first half in which the Rockets led by as many as 11 and became the latest team to frustrate Wallace.
Coming off his first All-Star appearance, Wallace's slump continued with a 2-of-10 shooting first half that included another charge as he struggles to get to the basket. With Jackson getting into early foul trouble, the Bobcats had few offensive options.
That changed in the third quarter, when Wallace was able to get to the foul line and the Rockets started settling for - and missing - jumpers.
Charlotte started the period on a 9-0 run and the Rockets shot 7 of 23 from the field as the Bobcats took a 72-68 lead entering the fourth.
''We need to be ready to play when we know they're going to push and try to make a run to win the game,'' said Luis Scola, who was held to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. ''We've got to know those runs are coming and we've got to not let that happen.''
Notes: Rockets coach Rick Adelman repeated Yao and Brooks are still ''weeks away'' from returning. ... Bobcats G Gerald Henderson missed his seventh straight game with a sore left knee. ... Rockets undrafted rookie G Ishmael Smith was a popular guy before the game in his return home. The Concord, N.C., and Wake Forest product has seen increased minutes with Brooks sidelined. ''I've had to throw him out there in situations, but he's handled it very well,'' Adelman said. ''We really like him.''