for this game

Sharp-shooting Bell carries Bobcats past Grizzlies

Jan 22, 2009 - 5:18 AM By Derek Smith PA sportsTicker Contributing Writer

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Raja Bell scored a team-high 25 points on Wednesday as the Charlotte Bobcats downed the Memphis Grizzlies, 101-86.

Emeka Okafor added 20 points and 15 rebounds for the retooled Bobcats, who have won four of their last five contests and 10 of 19 since Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary joined the club in December in a trade with the Phoenix Suns.

"Offensively, we're staring to get better and on any given night anyone on this team can score the ball," Bell said. "Over the past few weeks, we've been able to find the guy who has the hot hand and get them the ball and ride them until everyone else can get going. That's a good quality to have on a team."

Memphis, meanwhile, has dropped seven straight and 11 of its last 12.

Charlotte's roster now features eight players who were acquired since the hiring of coach Larry Brown in the offseason, including center DeSagana Diop, who made his debut in the win.

"We have more of an understanding of what we need to do to win ballgames," forward Gerald Wallace said. "Tonight we understood we had to play great defense."

Bell scored 10 of his 25 in the third quarter when the Bobcats took the lead for good.

"We had guys that set good screens and then guys that deliver good passes," Bell said. "My job was pretty easy. I just try to get open and when I am, I shoot. I'm happy that we got a win and that I was able to contribute that way I did tonight."

Rudy Gay gave Memphis its lone lead of the second half with a 3-pointer at the 8:19 mark in the third.

Bell answered with a basket on the ensuing possession to retake the lead, 53-52. Charlotte built a 68-61 edge late in third on Okafor's basket and led, 70-64, heading into the final frame.

Charlotte built a nine-point cushion on a dunk by Juwan Howard, but Memphis tried to come back and pulled within two possessions after a free throw from Marc Gasol.

"We've had a lot of close games lately," Okafor said, "and we seem to keep our resolve and are starting to win them rather than lose them. We're starting to get our confidence."

Diaw's 3-pointer gave the Bobcats a double-digit lead, 86-75, with 5:01 left and they never looked back. Okafor scored six of the team's last nine as their lead ballooned to 17 on Raymond Felton's 3-pointer before Gay scored the last basket for the final margin.

The Bobcats led 46-41 at the half behind 15 points from Bell.

"We made a lot of turnovers tonight," Gay said. "We were in a good position to win this game. We just need to be more solid down the stretch."

Gay led the way for Memphis with 26 points. Rookie O.J. Mayo added 13.