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Okafor wins first battle with Howard

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- As the final seconds ticked off on the
expansion Charlotte Bobcats' first victory, guard Jason Hart handed
the ball to team owner Bob Johnson.

The man who brought the NBA back to Charlotte after a two-year
absence seemed overwhelmed.

The 111-100 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night was
historic. The gesture from his players was downright special

"That showed a lot of class," said Johnson, who appeared to
have tears in his eyes. "They played their heart out, and if they
continue to play like that every game, I think we're going to win a
lot."

The Bobcats wrestled for rebounds, scrambled after loose balls
and outhustled the Magic en route to the win.

Primoz Brezec, quickly emerging as Charlotte's star player, had
20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bobcats. Gerald Wallace, who
landed face first on a slide off the court, added 18 points and 10
rebounds.

Steve Smith had 14 points, and Jason Hart had 14 points and 11
assists.

Cuttino Mobley led the Magic with 23 points. Grant Hill, playing
in his first back-to-back games since Dec. 15-16, 2002, scored 16
for the Magic. Hedo Turkoglu also had 16.

Hill said the Magic will forever carry the burden of being the
first team to lose to the Bobcats.

"To this day I know who Orlando's first win was -- the Detroit
Pistons," Hill said. "We don't want to be their first win. It
goes down in history."

The over-hyped first meeting between the first two picks in the
NBA draft never materialized.

Brezec made sure of that by shutting down rookie Dwight Howard,
who Orlando chose over Charlotte's Emeka Okafor with the No. 1
selection.

Howard, in foul trouble most of the game, didn't score until
late in the fourth quarter. He played just 23 minutes and finished
with five points and 12 rebounds -- but seven came when Charlotte
was leading by double digits.

"I just got a little overanxious," said Howard, who insisted
it had nothing to do with facing Okafor. "I played him just like
everybody else."

But Okafor was better, with 12 points and 14 rebounds. He still
showed growing pains, though. Turkoglu had a thunderous dunk on him
in the first half, he picked up a few careless fouls, and his shot
selection was suspect at times on 5-of-14 shooting.

Afterward, he downplayed the encounter with Howard while
praising his opponent.

"Man, it was the Bobcats versus the Magic, that's all," Okafor
said. "He really impressed me. He's going to be an excellent
player. He's really a lot stronger than I thought."

The Bobcats built a 22-point lead in the third quarter then sat
back and let Smith, Charlotte's lone veteran, preach patience as
they nursed home the lead through the fourth quarter. It was a
turnaround from the opener, when they were tied with Washington
late before crumbling as the Wizards pulled away.

"All I can say is those young men deserve it, they play hard
and they never surrendered," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff
said. "But we still do some things that can cause cardiac
arrest."

Steve Francis, who twice made the game-winning basket in
Orlando's first two games, was held to nine points on 4-of-12
shooting.

When he fouled out with just under 4 minutes to play, walking
directly off the court and through the tunnel after picking up the
foul in the corner, the Charlotte crowd showed it still knows how
to jeer by taunting Francis the entire way.

The pace reached a frenzied height in the third quarter when the
Bobcats pulled away. Francis took a hard tumble off the scorer's
table and into the first row of seats on one possession, and
Wallace later went flying off the court when he was fouled by Hill
under the basket.

Both players took their time getting up, but it was Wallace's
acrobatics that got the crowd excited.

The Bobcats rode the fan enthusiasm to a 70-48 lead, and enticed
the crowd by waving their arms to get the fans on their feet.

"We definitely overlooked this team," Francis said. "When you
overlook teams, these are the results you will get."

Game notes
Charlotte forward Theron Smith will have surgery on his
right knee Monday, and will be out at least six weeks. ... The
Magic were trying to start the season 3-0 for the first time since
1993-94. ... Hart replaced Jason Kapono in Charlotte's starting
lineup, but Bickerstaff said he asked Kapono's permission before
making the switch. ... Bobcats guard Brevin Knight injured his left
wrist late in the game. ... Seen courtside, injured Carolina
Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who was "Hanging with Mr.
Cooper," comedian Mark Curry.