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Hornets sting Raptors 109-88

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Initial indications are that the Charlotte Hornets have enough talent to prosper while Vlade Divac recovers from knee surgery.

Matt Geiger, pressed into the lineup by Divac's injury, matched his career high with 28 points to help the Hornets beat the Toronto Raptors 109-88 Monday night.

"This is an opportunistic league," Geiger said, ``and when you get an opportunity you've got to make the most of it."

Glen Rice scored 38 points as the Hornets snapped a three-game losing skid hours after learning they will be without Divac, their starting center, for at least six weeks. Divac injured his left knee in a loss to Detroit last week and will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair cartilage damage.

"Everybody's got to step up," coach Dave Cowens said. ``Matt's been playing well, and I hope he continues to do that."

Divac's absence was immediately evident on the boards, where Toronto had 12 offensive rebounds, including eight in the first half.

But the Raptors couldn't stop the outside shooting of Rice, who broke out of a three-game slump by hitting seven of nine 3-point attempts, and the timely contributions of Geiger. The fifth-year pro powered the decisive 33-10 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters, and he finished with eight rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a pair of steals.

Charlotte shot 59 percent from the field on the way to breaking the 100-point mark for the first time in 10 games. Leading the way was Geiger, who made 14 of 19 shots.

"I was just right at the bucket a lot of times," Geiger said. ``But I was working hard to get open and everybody worked hard to get me the ball. A night like this really helps your confidence."

The Raptors trailed by four points at halftime but scored just 33 points the rest of the way.

"We were right in the game, down four, but our guys basically did not show up in the second half," said Toronto coach Darrell Walker, whose team fell to 3-16 on the road. "I just played the guys who wanted to go out and play hard. What can I say?"

Marcus Camby, who had scored a combined 42 points in the Raptors' two previous games, had just eight points against Charlotte - all in the first half - and played only eight minutes in the final two quarters.

"I just don't understand it," Camby said. ``I have no excuses.''

Toronto, losing for the sixth time in seven games in Charlotte, got 23 points from Zan Tabak and 22 points and 12 assists from Damon Stoudamire.

Tabak, a third-year pro who hadn't scored more than 17 points this season or 26 in his career, had 20 points at halftime on 10-for-13 shooting. But he picked up three quick fouls in the third quarter, giving him five, and spent most of the rest of the game on the bench.

Charlotte was up by two points before Geiger fueled a 19-8 run to close the third quarter and put the Hornets in control. Geiger scored eight consecutive points and finished with 12 points, one assist and two steals in the surge, whih gave the Hornets an 80-67 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Geiger added four more points as Charlotte scored 14 of the first 16 points in the last quarter. His 15-footer from the right wing put Charlotte up 94-69 with 8:11 remaining.

Notes: The second half began not with the usual inbounds pass from the baseline, but with a free throw by Stoudamire. Charlotte's Anthony Mason was assessed a technical for arguing with the officials as the teams were walking to the locker rooms at halftime. ... The Hornets improved to 17-1 when they outshoot their opponents. ... Toronto is 3-8 all-time against Charlotte.


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