Ely, Brezec Solid as íCats Breeze Past Bulls
Charlotte 93, Chicago 80
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 28 (Ticker) -- The Chicago Bulls probably know better than anyone that the Charlotte Bobcats are no longer playing like an expansion team.
Melvin Ely matched his season high with 20 points and Primoz Brezec added 17 and 14 rebounds as the Bobcats posted a 93-80 triumph over the Bulls.
"Everybody around the league knows that we're going to come and play hard and if you overlook us, we will get you," Ely said. "Every time we're down, we're never out."
Charlotte also nearly beat Chicago in its season opener as the Bulls needed to rally from a 25-point second-half deficit to win 109-105 in overtime Nov. 2.
Neither team led by more than seven points in the first half Wednesday and the game remained close before the Bobcats began to take control late in the third quarter.
After Ben Gordon's jumper gave the Bulls a 63-59 lead with 1:47 left, Matt Carroll answered with a layup 23 seconds later to ignite a 20-2 spurt that bridged the final two periods.
Ely and Carroll scored six points apiece before Gerald Wallace capped the burst with a basket with 6:24 remaining that made it 79-65. During the pivotal run, the Bulls committed six of their 24 turnovers.
"The pressure in the fourth quarter got us some turnovers that we were able to convert," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "We had 21 offensive boards as well, and that's work ethic and hustle."
Already without injured starters Kareem Rush and Emeka Okafor, Charlotte lost point guard Brevin Knight with 4:33 to play in the first half with an ankle injury.
"We always seem to have a couple of guys go out, and that's where the bench comes into play," Ely said. "These guys step up and play well and that's something that we've been trying to do all year."
Despite the short bench, Charlotte was the aggressor. The Bobcats scored 29 points off turnovers, scored 19 more points at the free-throw line (25-6) and outrebounded the Bulls 50-38, including 21-11 edge on the offensive glass.
"The 11 guys in that room are giving it everything they've got," Bickerstaff said. "We are still doing the things we've been doing all the time in terms of forcing turnovers and offensive rebounds, and we're converting them now. Guys who have not had an opportunity are stepping up and performing."
Luol Deng scored 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting for Chicago, which has lost five straight games.
"They just played harder than we did," Deng said. "We have to get back to what makes us a good team defensively. The Bobcats outhustled us. They played a full 48 minutes and we didn't."
"We haven't played well of late," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "It's obvious for everybody to see. In order for us to win an NBA game we have to play a lot better than we're playing right now."
Darius Songaila scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, including a dunk with 41 seconds left that helped the Bulls forge a 45-45 tie at the break.