CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Before Michael Jordan would be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in a halftime ceremony, the Charlotte Bobcats owner had a message for his struggling team.
``He said, 'You better not lose on my night,'' forward Gerald Wallace said. ``But at the same time he gave that speech about us coming out and playing with more effort.'
It wasn't pretty and far from perfect, but there was vast improvement from three days earlier and it ended with a much-needed victory.
Nazr Mohammed had 18 points and eight rebounds, Tyrus Thomas hit the go-ahead jumper with just over a minute left, and the Bobcats overcame Stephen Jackson's poor night to beat the Toronto Raptors 97-91 on Tuesday night.
``(Jordan) wants to see us on the floor for loose balls, doing the little things that we used to do,' said Wallace, who added 16 points and had four of Charlotte's 13 blocks but also twisted his left ankle. ``I think tonight was the starting point. We've got to build off that.'
With Jackson held to seven points before fouling out, reserves played key roles as the Bobcats snapped a two-game skid. Thomas, in his return after missing two games with a sore calf, scored 14 points and his mid-range jumper with 1:20 left put Charlotte ahead to stay.
Little-used Matt Carroll, playing for Jackson, then hit a cutting Boris Diaw for a half-hook on Charlotte's next possession to make it 93-89.
The Raptors wilted from there, missing five of six shots and committing two turnovers in the final minute. It was Toronto's fifth loss in six games despite 17 points and nine assists from Jerryd Bayless.
``We can't turn the ball over,' coach Jay Triano said. ``We were going to the basket, which was good, but they blocked a lot of shots.'
In their first game since rallying from 25 points down in Detroit for the largest comeback victory in franchise history, the Raptors squandered a 12-point, first-half lead as they played their third straight game without point guard Jose Calderon (sore left foot).
DeMar DeRozan added 14 points and Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza each scored 12 for Toronto, which shot 40 percent and committed 19 turnovers.
``It's real frustrating,' DeRozan said. ``Teams these days are too good, and when you turn over the ball, it's a good chance they will go down and make something happen.'
Three nights after taking over the postgame address from coach Larry Brown following a 31-point loss to Boston, Jordan was in usual courtside seat. At halftime, the Wilmington native was inducted into the state's hall of fame. The ceremony included his college coach, Dean Smith, coming on the floor with him.
The small crowd loudly cheered the pair - after booing the home team during Toronto's 20-2 run in the first quarter when the Raptors had easy paths to the lane and numerous second-chance points.
Some of the old problems popped up, too. Referee Ed Malloy hit Jackson with a second-quarter technical foul after his third foul. It was Jackson's seventh technical of the season and his first since he sent a letter to fans apologizing for behavior that got him suspended for a game two weeks ago.
``It's funny, it's a joke,' Jackson said when asked about his frustration over being in foul trouble. ``All I can do is laugh at it and let it go.'
Jackson, held to 3 of 8 shooting in 25 minutes, fouled out with 4:35 left after picking up two in 13 seconds. Carroll replaced him and his jumper put Charlotte ahead 87-83 with 3:34 to go.
Mohammed was the most effective scorer, hitting 8 of 11 shots. But Brown said Jordan has discussed taking him out of the starting lineup to give the second unit an offensive boost.
Wallace, who played 45 minutes, had ice on his left ankle after the game. Brown said he kept him in the game because he was told he'd get stiff if he came out. Wallace's status for Wednesday's game in Memphis is uncertain as the Bobcats try to make their owner happy.
``That was kind of neat seeing Michael honored and all those people there,' Brown said. ``That was a pretty impressive group. But we needed a win.'
Notes: DeRozan had the play of the night, a leaping, one-handed tomahawk dunk over Thomas in the third quarter. ... Triano hadn't received a report on how Calderon's individual workout went before the game. But when asked if he'd play Wednesday against Chicago, Triano replied, ``probably not.' ... G Gerald Henderson didn't score in three minutes after Brown said Jordan and GM Rod Higgins don't want to send him to Maine of the development league as he works his way back from a knee injury.
The Associated Press News Service
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