CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—For a night, the roles were reversed. The low-scoring Bobcats were suddenly efficient on offense, while the high-scoring Hawks turned in a stinker that led star Joe Johnson(notes) to question his teammates.
Raja Bell(notes) shook off his painful left wrist to score 24 points, Ronald “Flip” Murray pestered his former team with 15 points in his Charlotte debut, and Gerald Wallace(notes) grabbed 18 rebounds in the Bobcats’ 103-83 victory over road-weary Atlanta on Friday night.
While the Hawks were completing a trip that took them to Los Angeles, Sacramento and Portland this week, the Bobcats were holding three productive practices and getting healthy.
Bell, in his second game after deciding to put off surgery to repair a torn ligament in his wrist, hit 9 of 12 shots, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Murray’s return from a left shin injury allowed the Bobcats to move to 3-0 at home for the first time in franchise history.
“We had so many guys contribute tonight,” Charlotte coach Larry Brown said.
It had all the makings of a trap game for the Hawks, and they played the part. Johnson, Josh Smith(notes) and Jamal Crawford(notes) each scored 13 points, but they combined to shoot 15 for 39 from the field.
The Hawks (4-2) fell behind by 21 in the third quarter and scored only 14 in the fourth.
“I don’t know when we all of a sudden just really became a selfish team,” Johnson said. “Now everybody wants to go one-on-one. It’s me, me, me. It’s crazy, man.”
Coach Mike Woodson called the performance “unacceptable” and was unwilling to blame it on the travel. Johnson added he’s been seeing signs of trouble despite recent victories.
“Everybody who touches it wants to score,” Johnson said. “I really think guys on this team don’t know their roles, so it’s killing us. And it’s going to continue to kill us.”
It was a much more joyous scene down the hallway in the Charlotte locker room. The Bobcats, who came in averaging an NBA-low 79.8 points, had reached 80 only once in their first four games—a double-overtime contest. But this game was marked by crisp ball movement, heady passing and strong drives to the hoop.
Bell hit his first five shots, including two 3-pointers. He stayed hot in the second quarter, hitting a 3 to put Charlotte ahead 59-44.
“It was one of those nights where Raja was like, ‘No way. The hell with it. I’ll worry about the pain after,”’ Wallace said. “He did a great job today.”
Charlotte built a 77-56 lead on Bell’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter.
“Right now it aches a little bit, but when you get a good adrenaline flow going it really only hurts when it’s a situational thing,” Bell said.
Murray seemed to have an extra incentive against the Hawks. He scored seven points in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter and gave Charlotte an outside scoring threat it was desperately missing.
Before the game, Woodson said he would have liked to re-sign Murray, who averaged 12.2 points last season, even after acquiring Crawford.
“He said he wanted me to come there but management never said it. Management never reached out to me during the summer,” Murray said. “I had fun there for the year I was there. It was unfortunate that today’s game was against them when I came back.”
He helped jump-start the offense, which also got improved play from Tyson Chandler(notes). He had 10 points and 10 rebounds, including a thunderous alley-oop dunk on a feed from D.J. Augustin(notes) to open the fourth quarter and the Hawks never recovered.
Wallace had 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting, but had another big game on the glass four nights after grabbing a career-high 20 rebounds. Charlotte held a 55-35 rebounding edge.
“I can’t make a shot so I might as well rebound,” Wallace said.
Bobcats coach Larry Brown called the Hawks “probably the most athletic team in the league” before the game, but there were slow chasing the ball and Charlotte hit 11 of 18 3-pointers.
Atlanta was 2 of 16 from 3-point range.
“Ain’t no way this team is 20-some points better than us,” Johnson said. “It can’t continue to go like this.”
NOTES: Referee Michael Smith hit Woodson with a technical foul in the third quarter. … Hawks trainer Wally Blase, who tracks fouls, alertly hustled to the scoring table in the second quarter when they incorrectly had four fouls on the Bobcats, not five. It put Josh Smith to the line. … Brown praised Woodson’s job in turning around a team that won 13 games in his first season. “They gave their coach a chance to grow with those kids,” Brown said.