Villanueva scores 24 as Raptors ease past depleted Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Furious with his team's first-half
performance Friday night, Toronto coach Sam Mitchell ripped into
his players at halftime.

The strategy worked.

Charlie Villanueva scored 24 points, and All-Star Chris Bosh
added 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Raptors over the
undermanned Charlotte Bobcats 88-73.

Mike James scored 18 points for the Raptors, who opened the
second half with a 20-2 run to erase a one-point deficit and
snapped a two-game losing streak.

"Coach is always animated, but he was probably a little more
animated than normal," guard Morris Peterson said. "He got on
some guys and challenged some guys. That's what we needed."

Matt Carroll scored a career-high 26 points for Charlotte, which
shot a franchise-worst 31.8 percent. The Bobcats played without
four starters, including their starting backcourt, and had their
franchise-record three-game winning streak snapped.

Brevin Knight sat out because his knee was sore after he ran
into a cameraman in Wednesday's win over Philadelphia. Raymond
Felton, the only Bobcats player who had not missed a game, was
ruled out just before tipoff with a sprained big right toe.

The Bobcats were already without leading scorer Gerald Wallace
(knee), leading rebounder Emeka Okafor (ankle) and rookie Sean May

Still, Charlotte led 37-36 at halftime, and Mitchell was upset.

"He wasn't happy," Villanueva said. "He was angry at the way
we played. We just couldn't let (losing to Charlotte) happen."

Little-used Kevin Burleson was forced to start at point guard
for the Bobcats, and even forward Bernard Robinson played some
point early on. The Bobcats were out of whack offensively at the
start, missing 16 of their first 19 shots in falling behind 23-11
after the first quarter.

"I think it was obvious how much (Knight and Felton) mean to
this team, just controlling the tempo of the game, getting guys
shots and doing the little things," Carroll said. "It's
definitely a big loss without them in the game."

To make matters worse, Kareem Rush got into early foul trouble
and finished with seven points and six turnovers. Burleson did not
score on 0-of-6 shooting.

"I was excited and I came up there revved up and sometimes I
went a little too fast," Burleson said of his first career start.
"I was out of sync and the team was out of sync."

The Bobcats, despite making just nine field goals and shooting
25 percent in the first half, rallied to take a one-point lead on
Robinson's two free throws with 5 seconds left.

But Villanueva hit two 3-pointers, Bosh had two buckets inside
and James had two driving layups, one coming off Burleson's
turnover, in the decisive spurt to start the second half after
Mitchell's tirade.

"In the third quarter, I thought we executed about as well as
we could," Mitchell said.

The Raptors led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter
despite the strong play of Carroll, who hit 5-of-7 3-pointers.

"I knew I had to be more aggressive without Brevin and Raymond
in the game," Carroll said. "I've been waiting to get into a
shooting rhythm. Tonight I got into a groove."

Game notes
Knowing the Bobcats' injury woes, referee Luis Grillo
turned to coach Bernie Bickerstaff prior to tipoff and asked, "Do
you want me to dress?" ... Rush, a Missouri product, was surprised
his college coach Quin Snyder resigned Friday. "Coach Q was a
great coach when I was there," Rush said. "It's unfortunate, but
it was probably time for him to leave. A lot of people wanted him
out." ... Bosh was still smiling a day after being selected to his
first All-Star game. "It means a lot to me," Bosh said. ... Lonny
Baxter, acquired Thursday in a trade with Houston, had five points
and four rebounds in 12 minutes in his Charlotte debut.