CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Gerald Wallace returned from a wrist injury to score 24 points and grab nine rebounds, leading the Charlotte Bobcats over the New York Knicks 108-95 on Wednesday night.

Kareem Rush added 22 points and Emeka Okafor had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Bobcats, who won for only the second time in nine games.

Wallace, who had missed six games with a chip fracture in his right wrist, made three 3-pointers, blocked a shot and dunked on an alley-oop pass from Brevin Knight as the Bobcats outscored the Knicks 23-11 in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to take a 19-point lead.

After the Knicks cut a 22-point deficit to 11 early in the fourth quarter, Wallace put it out of reach by hitting consecutive 3s to make it 98-79 with 5:39 left.

Wallace, who played with a wrap on his wrist, made 5-of-8 3-pointers. Known more as a slasher, Wallace had never attempted more than four 3s in a game.

Stephon Marbury scored 21 points for the Knicks, who were held without a field goal for more than five minutes in the third quarter.

It was the most points given up by New York since Larry Brown became coach.

The Knicks played without starting center Eddy Curry, who has a strained left calf. With Jerome James still out with a hamstring injury, Antonio Davis moved from power forward to center and Maurice Taylor started at power forward.

With Melvin Ely also returning to the lineup after missing five games with a sore left shin, it was the first time this season the Bobcats were entirely healthy. They shot 48 percent and forced 22 turnovers.

Rush hit two 3-pointers in a 10-4 run that gave Charlotte a 45-38 lead with 3:13 left in the second quarter. Rush, who scored a career-high 35 points in Charlotte’s last home game a week ago, sank a fadeaway 21-footer with 17 seconds left in the half to give the Bobcats a 54-45 halftime lead.

Notes: Brown hinted Curry may also miss Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, saying he’ll be cautious not to rush him back. … The Bobcats, in conjunction with local radio station WFNZ, collected more than $13,300 and 2,000 turkeys from fans outside the arena Wednesday. The proceeds will be donated to area charities. … Brown, a North Carolina alumnus whose mother lives in Charlotte, had high praise in his first trip to the city’s new arena. “It’s great, it’s in North Carolina,” Brown joked. “They did a good job incorporating it within the city.”

AP-ES-11-23-05 2200EST


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