Sloan banishes Giricek as Jazz fall apart in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- A day after part-owner Michael Jordan jumped into a practice drill to teach his struggling team a thing or two, the Charlotte Bobcats pulled off a late comeback reminiscent of Jordan's glory days.

Charlotte trailed by 12 points with less than six minutes left, but Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson and Raymond Felton led a furious rally that helped the Bobcats stun the Utah Jazz 98-92 on Wednesday night.

Taking advantage of Utah's meltdown on a night coach Jerry Sloan banished reserve guard Gordan Giricek to the locker room, the Bobcats closed the game on a 24-6 run.

Watching it all while hidden in a suite above the court was Jordan, who had taken a hands-on approach the past two days with Charlotte having lost 10 of 12 games.

"I think it gave guys a spark," Felton said, referring to what Jordan called a two-day workshop. "Just to see him around, just for him to come around and mess around with us."

On Monday, Jordan, who has the final say on all personnel decisions, sat in on a film session and a team meeting. On Tuesday, he donned the practice gear, going through shooting drills and imploring his players to "do the little things."

After struggling for much of the game, the Bobcats finally heeded his advice.

Wallace scored 26 points, Richardson added 24 and Felton scored 17, including a three-point play to cap a 13-0 run that put Charlotte ahead with 3:24 left.

After the Jazz regained the lead, Felton hit two free throws to put Charlotte ahead to stay with 3 minutes left.

Wallace later had an acrobatic block of Ronnie Brewer's layup attempt, and Richardson hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to put it away.

"He gave us some pointers on things he felt like we could do better to be a better team," Wallace said about Jordan.

Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Deron Williams scored 20 points for the Jazz, whose collapse came amid questions about Giricek's future with the team.

With the Jazz already playing without Mehmet Okur (shoulder) and Matt Harpring (stomach), Sloan angrily sent Giricek to the locker room after an exchange on the bench in the second quarter.

"I don't have any comment on that right now," said Sloan, who also declined to say whether Giricek will stay with the team on the road trip.

Giricek, who has seen his playing time diminish lately, had scored two points in five minutes. He did not return to the bench in the second half and wasn't seen after the game.

"We'll talk about that in-house," Boozer said.

Utah's eighth loss in nine games and its seventh straight on the road seemed unthinkable midway through the fourth quarter.

Jason Hart's 3-pointer and four-point play were part of a 15-4 run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Jazz an 86-74 lead.

Then the Bobcats switched to a zone defense, and the Jazz started turning it over, hitting the bottom of the backboard on shots and becoming rattled in a collapse that left Sloan fuming at his player and the officials.

"The turnovers we had and the shot selection we had were just like we had never played with each other," Sloan said. "They shot 21 free throws in the fourth quarter. We go to the basket a little bit, we can't get to the free throw line. That's really amazing to me."

It was also surprising that the Bobcats hit their foul shots. Coming in as the worst free throw-shooting team in the NBA at less than 68 percent, the Bobcats made 19 of 21 in the fourth quarter.

"The big stops, made free throws and getting to the rim is what got us the win tonight," coach Sam Vincent said.

The Bobcats also got a decent contribution from Nazr Mohammed. Acquired last week in a trade with Detroit, Mohammed had 17 points and eight rebounds in his first start.

Notes:@ Vincent laughed off a suggestion the 44-year-old Jordan might consider another comeback, saying he believed Jordan was sore a day after his workout. "I think he was planning on coming to shootaround this morning, but I think as a result of those drills, we didn't see him today," Vincent joked. ... Okur missed his fifth straight game despite going through a rigorous workout before the game. ... Harpring remained in Salt Lake City for more tests to determine the cause of inflammation in his stomach lining. Sloan did not know if Harpring would play Friday at Orlando.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-12-19-07 2135MST

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