HOUSTON (AP) -- Emeka Okafor felt right at home in the Toyota
No wonder the Bobcats finally won away from Charlotte.
The expansion Bobcats won on the road for the first time,
getting 21 points and 11 rebounds from Okafor in a 90-87 victory
Wednesday night over the Houston Rockets.
"It's nice to have my first road win in the city I grew up
in," said the 6-foot-10 rookie star. "This one was coming and it
was just a matter of time."
Jason Kapono added 16 points for Charlotte, a loser in its first
10 road games. The victory gave Charlotte a sweep over a team many
once believed would be among the NBA's elite. The Bobcats defeated
the Rockets 101-100 in overtime on Saturday.
Okafor had quite a homecoming at the expense of his favorite
He recorded his 14th consecutive double-double, tying Shaquille
O'Neal for the second-longest streak by a rookie in NBA history.
But it was his clutch defensive play that sealed the landmark
With 13.6 seconds left and Charlotte holding a 3-point lead,
Okafor stepped into the lane on Tracy McGrady's drive to the
basket. He forced McGrady into an awkward pass that went off Yao
Charlotte point guard Brevin Knight then threw the inbounds pass
the length of the court to a wide-open Primoz Brezec, who completed
the play with a two-handed slam. Disgusted by the surprising turn
of events, the crowd of 13,655 booed the Rockets off the floor.
"When you talk about character tests, this was one," Bobcats
coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "And when you talk about gorillas,
that's exactly what this win was on the road. It was a good feather
(in our cap) because we beat a good team on the road."
Whether the Rockets are a good team or not is debatable.
Once touted as a potential contender for the NBA title with the
All-Star inside-outside combo of Yao and McGrady, Houston has been
a huge disappointment. The Rockets dropped two games below .500 to
"This is who we are at present," a somber Rockets coach Jeff
Van Gundy said. "Without a change in our behavior, our
preparations, our intensity, our concentration, our energy, our
execution ... you're not going to get change."
A game after scoring a season-high 40 points in a win over
Toronto, Yao had an ignominious triple double -- 20 points, 14
rebounds and 10 turnovers.
"My turnovers killed the team," Yao said.
McGrady had 25 points, nine rebounds, six assists and five
steals. Bob Sura added 17 points and Jim Jackson 15 for the
Rockets, who shot just 39 percent against the league's worst
Meanwhile, the Bobcats weren't even shaken by the loss of
starting forward Gerald Wallace, who left the game in the third
quarter with a sprained right wrist.
Wallace was hurt during a collision late in the quarter when he
tried to stop a driving layup by Rockets guard Tyronn Lue. Wallace
went for a block of Lue's shot and the guard crashed into him,
sending both players tumbling to the floor.
Wallace writhed around on the ground in pain before being helped
off the floor. He finished with two points in 24 minutes.
Okafor helped pick up the slack, hitting a couple of key shots
down the stretch and swatting away Sura's point-blank layup with
24.9 seconds left to seal the victory.
He looked remarkably poised for someone playing his first NBA
game in his hometown. Expecting a few pregame jitters, Okafor made
a point to stick to his usual pregame routine in an effort to block
out the distractions.
"I don't care how focused you are," Bickerstaff said. "You've
got to be awfully strong to ignore all that."
But Okafor then went about playing as if this were any other
game. About the only thing that made it different from the average
road game was the smattering of applause throughout the crowd when
he shot free throws.
"I wasn't going to let my emotions get the better of me,"
Okafor said. "We won, and that's the reason to be excited. I'm
happy ... I'll walk away with it."
Okafor set aside about 50 tickets for family and friends at
Toyota Center. About the only people missing from his contingent
were his parents, Pius and Celestina, who were visiting relatives
in Nigeria. "I tried to accommodate everyone," Okafor said.
"Pretty much, if you asked, I got you tickets." ... Among those
in the crowd were the parents of R&B star Beyonce, Mathew and Tina
Knowles. They took in the game from courtside seats. ... The
Bobcats are the first expansion team to sweep a season series from