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Okafor's 26 points not enough for Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- All through college, Emeka Okafor stole
Ben Gordon's snacks. So when Okafor stole the ball from him late in
Saturday night's game, Gordon was finally fed up.

Gordon dusted himself off after Okafor knocked him down on a
steal, then rebounded to sink a 3-pointer that sealed the Chicago
Bulls' 94-90 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night.

"I was just seeing black for a minute, that's why I had to hit
him with that dagger -- take that!" Gordon said. "I don't know why
he would be complaining. I had all the snacks. He was eating all my
stuff, I was feeding the guy and see the thanks I get?"

Best friends and roommates at Connecticut, where the two led the
Huskies to the national title last season, Okafor and Gordon were
the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in the NBA draft.

Now the two front-runners for Rookie of the Year, their one
physical exchange late in the game had both of them sharing
roommate secrets afterward.

When Gordon went up for a layup late in the fourth quarter,
Okafor went over his head and plucked the ball out of Gordon's
hands while knocking him to the ground.

Okafor hustled down the court while Gordon picked himself up off
the floor, trailing the play. After a Bobcats miss, Gordon calmly
hit a 3 with 1:15 to play that gave Chicago a 93-88 lead and locked
up the win.

"He was at the rack and I think we were in the air and I
snatched it away, no hard feelings, it was just part of the game,"
Okafor said.

Then Okafor let it spill about the time he caught Gordon
clipping his toenails over Okafor's refrigerator as if the
knockdown was his payback.

"We might as well be (married). All that time we spent
together, it's like brothers, a sibling thing," Okafor said.

Give Okafor the nod in individual statistics this time -- he
finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds -- but Gordon got the win.

Afterward, neither wanted to step up as the leader in the rookie
race.

"A statement is not made in one game," Okafor said.

Antonio Davis led Chicago with 20 points, Eddy Curry had 16 and
Othella Harrington scored 12. Gordon and Kirk Hinrich had 11 each.

Kareem Rush scored 13 for Charlotte and Knight added 10 for the
Bobcats, who were thin on bodies. Gerald Wallace (sprained right
wrist) and Bernard Robinson (sprained left foot) did not dress,
center Primoz Brezec was ill and Rush left with a sprained right
knee in the fourth quarter.

Okafor was also sick, fighting a bout of bronchitis that had
coach Bernie Bickerstaff reluctant to start him. But he was on the
floor at the opening tip and jumped out to a quick start by scoring
eight of Charlotte's first 15 points.

The Bobcats could have used the same effort from Brezec, who was
initially on the bench in uniform, but went to the locker room at
halftime and never came back out. Without him in the lineup, Curry
had his way around the basket and converted a handful of
rim-rattling dunks.

So it fell to Okafor to carry Charlotte both offensively and
defensively. He did both, ending the first half with 15 points and
eight rebounds while helping Charlotte out to a 56-51 lead at the
break.

The Bobcats stretched their lead to 62-53 early in the third
quarter, but the Bulls answered with a 16-2 run to pull ahead.
Gordon scored a 3, then made a trio of free throws when he was
fouled by Knight, and Knight was called for a technical for
arguing.

Gordon's third shot gave Chicago a 69-64 lead.

Game notes
Chicago coach Scott Skiles would not weigh in on the Rookie
of the Year debate between Gordon and Okafor. "I like all my
rookies," said Skiles, who has four on his roster. ... The Bobcats
are eyeing three different point guards -- Derrick Zimmerman of
Columbus's NBDL team, and Cory Alexander from the Roanoke
franchise, as well as Jermaine Jackson of the CBA's Great Lakes
Storm -- and hope to have one signed soon. ... Wallace was named a
co-captain before the game, taking the place of Steve Smith, who
was traded Thursday to Miami.