CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—Kareem Rush had come to symbolize the Charlotte Bobcats’ offensive woes. He was shooting 34 percent from the field and the Bobcats had shot below 40 percent in three straight games.
All that changed Wednesday night.
Rush scored a career-high 35 points and rookie Raymond Felton added 18 points and 10 assists in his first career start to help the Bobcats snap a five-game losing streak with a 122-90 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
It was the both the most points scored and the largest margin of victory for the second-year Bobcats.
“The pressure was there to keep taking shots but when you’re not making them you don’t want to take as many,” said Rush, who made 6-of-7 3-pointers. “But tonight was one of those nights and hopefully this will boost my confidence where I want to go out there and take tough shots.”
Felton, starting in place of the injured Brevin Knight, ignited a 10-0 run late in the third quarter after Indiana had cut a 14-point deficit to 71-65. Felton hit two 3-pointers and fed fellow rookie Sean May with a no-look pass leading to a layup in the spurt. Felton hit another 3 in the closing seconds of the period to give the Bobcats an 89-72 lead.
His steal and layup put Charlotte ahead 93-72 early in the fourth quarter.
“You know what he did first tonight was get his teammates involved,” Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “I had a conversation with him before the game and I told him I wanted him to play with passion. You have to be who you are.”
Emeka Okafor added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Bobcats, who shot 53 percent. Charlotte dominated despite being without leading scorer Gerald Wallace (wrist) and Knight, who was a late scratch with tendinitis his left knee.
“I took advantage, I calmed down and ran the team,” Felton said. “Everything was clicking tonight.”
“We shouldn’t even get paid for this game,” said forward Jermaine O’Neal, who had 17 points and eight rebounds. “I’m not trying to take anything away from the Bobcats, they played a heck of a game, but we feel like we are at another level. I felt like we were the expansion team tonight. I’m thoroughly embarrassed.”
Playing their first game since blowing a 14-point lead in a loss to Milwaukee on Saturday, the Pacers hit their first eight shots in racing to a 19-9 lead.
But Charlotte, playing for the second straight night, woke up in the second quarter, outscoring the Pacers 34-16 to take the lead. Rush made all four of his shots in the quarter, including two 3-pointers. His two free throws gave Charlotte a 56-46 halftime lead.
Rush, who made 11-of-18 shots, surpassed his previous career-high of 30 points set two seasons ago when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“They outworked us and rubbed our faces in it too and they should have,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got some soul searching to do. We have to play these guys again (Friday), which is not going to be any fun based on what I saw tonight.”
Wallace was scheduled to be examined by the team doctor Wednesday night, but Bickerstaff gave no timetable for his return. … Charlotte forward Melvin Ely missed his third straight game with a shin injury. … The Pacers were playing their first game in Charlotte’s new arena, but Carlisle said players don’t have as big of an adjustment as they did when he was a player in the 1980s. “Most of these new arenas have very good color schemes so you don’t have depth perception problems,” Carlisle said.