Posted Apr 19 2010 5:51PM
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Gerald Wallace spoke with a bit of feistiness and flavor Monday, fed up with the notion his Charlotte Bobcats might be intimidated by Dwight Howard's presence in the paint.
So this time Wallace sent an ever-so small shot back.
"We're not going to just let him think he's the bully or that he's a factor up under the basket," Wallace said, "because he's not."
Say this about the Bobcats: They still have some fight.
Their offensive efficiency was a tale of two halves in their Game 1 loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Charlotte turned into a perimeter shooting team when Howard swatted eight shots in the first -- nine for the game -- and was pushed out of the paint.
The Bobcats went down by 22 points, and sputtered until the reigning defensive player of the year hit foul trouble in the third quarter. To have any chance to even the best-of-seven series when it resumes Wednesday in Orlando, they know they have to score more around the rim.
Even if that means on Howard.
"He's a shot blocker, and we're a team that attacks the rim," Wallace said. "You put those two together, and somebody has to win."
Score the first round for Orlando.
But the Bobcats believe they have more than a puncher's chance.
Their attacking style in the second half nearly led them to an upset of the second-seeded and defending Eastern Conference champion Magic. Charlotte closed the gap to five points in the final minutes, driving to the basket with more pop that forced Howard into foul trouble.
"That's why he had a lot of blocks, because we were taking it in there," Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton said. "We can't be intimated that he's going to block our shots. We got him in foul trouble. He had nine blocks, but he also almost fouled out."
Monday also offered the Bobcats hope they could make a series turnaround.
The nervousness players said they had in the franchise's first-ever playoff game was washed away, and playful joking and trick shots were back after practice. Felton, for instance, said the "chills" he felt before Game 1 were gone.
Confidence that they were close started to take shape.
"To know that you're able to win this series, I think we got a chance. I like our chances. Granted, they're a great team. But so are we," Felton said.
Perhaps the best news of the day for Charlotte came with an MRI on Stephen Jackson's hyperextended left knee that showed a small bone bruise but no structural damage.
The Bobcats swingman sat out practice and had an ice wrap around his knee. He walked with a slight limp but expects to start in Game 2.
"It's real sore," Jackson said. "It's way sorer than it was yesterday. But hopefully come Wednesday, the little swelling it has will go down."
Or as Bobcats coach Larry Brown put it, "I think if the MRI said he had an ACL (tear), he'd play anyway."
Now if only the entire team would play so fearless.
Charlotte's second-half scrappiness at least provided them with some confidence that the series might not be so lopsided. The pushing and pulling on Howard kept the All-Star center grounded offensively, holding him to five points and seven rebounds.
While Orlando's center was frustrated offensively and played only 27 minutes because of foul trouble, his defense was enough of a force for Brown to call him the "most valuable player" of the game afterward.
The Bobcats' approach is simple: drive at Howard even harder in Game 2, and live with the results.
"We're going to keep going at him, and we're going to keep attacking," Wallace said. "If he ends up with 20 blocks, he ends up with 20 blocks. He's going to have to work for his 20 blocks.
"We don't have anybody on this team that's afraid to attack the basket."
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