NBA.com Daily Confidential

Having Gerald Wallace back in the starting lineup is already paying off for the Charlotte Bobcats.

With one of their top players back on the floor, the Bobcats (13-25) will try for their second win in as many nights over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

Wallace, who is averaging 13.5 points per game, played in Friday's 96-75 win at Atlanta, his first game since missing seven games after separating his right shoulder on Dec. 30 in a 113-102 win at Indiana. He wasn't slated to start, but did after Primoz Brezec was forced to sit out with a stiff back.

Wallace responded with 18 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.

"I didn't feel like I was going to be that effective because I haven't played that much, conditioning-wise," Wallace said. "I just hoped I don't get hit on (the shoulder) too hard.''

Wallace scored just six points in 18 minutes in the loss to the Pacers when he was injured. He scored 68 points in two games prior to that and was solid on both ends Friday.

He could continue to give a boost to Charlotte's struggling offense that averages 94.6 points per game.

"The part that I was impressed with was that his rebounding early in the game got us possessions," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "And that's how you get points. You got to get possessions."

Emeka Okafor had 22 points and 13 rebounds for his 23rd double-double this season, and the Bobcats allowed their fewest points of 2006-07 while avoiding a third consecutive loss.

"Between Okafor and Wallace, they dominated the game," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "They made every hustle play and grabbed every rebound and got to every loose ball,"

Charlotte, which is already without guard Brevin Knight (abdominal muscle tear), played without Brezec, and starting guard Raymond Felton, who averages 14.1 points and 7.6 assists per game, because of a sprained ankle.

Atlanta (13-24) also is dealing with injuries. Starting guard Speedy Claxton has missed four straight games with a sore left knee, but hopes to return next week. Reserve Tyronn Lue has missed 14 of the last 15 games with a strained groin.

Despite the injuries, the Hawks had been playing well until Friday when their three-game winning streak ended.

Atlanta shot 40.5 percent from the field, missed all six of its 3-point attempts and was outrebounded 47-31.

"They came out, hit us first and kept on hitting and we never retaliated," Hawks center Lorenzen Wright said.

Joe Johnson, who scored a season-high 36 points in a 99-90 win over Charlotte on Nov. 29, led the Hawks with 19 points Friday, well below his season average of 24.8 points per game.

"It's definitely disappointing and frustrating to know we have the ability to play so well and come out with this kind of performance,'' Atlanta's Josh Childress said. "We had no energy, no effort, from top to bottom. They just beat us up."

Atlanta is 1-3 on the road against the Bobcats.


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