Point guard Kemba Walker didn’t need many words Saturday to sum up the phenomenon that is a 14-game home losing streak.
“It’s been a long time,” the Charlotte Bobcats co-captain said, and there’s no doubting that.
It’s been since Nov. 21 and that victory, over the Toronto Raptors, involved a non-call at the end so egregious the NBA publicly chastised the referees for failing to charge rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with a foul on Toronto’s last shot.
The Bobcats could have used another bailout Saturday: They were outscored 7-3 in the final two minutes, allowing the similarly limited Sacramento Kings to escape with a 97-93 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Road-Sweet-Road: The Bobcats have now won three of their last six away from TWC, yet can barely remember the last time Bobcats fans could go home happy.
“We dealt with it last night,” said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap of the need to validate Friday’s road win in Orlando by beating the Kings. “As soon as we won, we planted the seeds.”
Those seeds didn’t germinate. This was certainly more competitive than various other home losses, but that’s to be expected against a Kings team that is 16-25, not markedly better than the Bobcats’ 10-30.
They did some good things Saturday, particularly not allowing Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins to dominate in the post. Center Brendan Haywood came off the bench in checking Cousins to 17 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
But the thing that got the Bobcats on Saturday wasn’t subtle: They took 17 more free throws than the Kings, yet scored only eight more points at the foul line. Sacramento was a remarkable 88 percent from the line. The Bobcats were 68 percent, slipping below their 74 percent for the season.
“When you lose these close games, that’s the first stat you look at,” Dunlap said.
Even with the 12 misses from the foul line, the Bobcats still had a chance to pull this one out. But with the score tied at 90, Charlotte’s last six possessions amounted to four misses, a three-point play by Ramon Sessions off a foul by Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, and Hakim Warrick’s lost-ball turnover.
They were down just three with 2.9 seconds left when Walker launched a 27-footer that proved to be an air ball; symbolic of this team’s home struggles.
“I thought I had an open shot. I hesitated,” said Walker, who finished with 14 points and 10 assists. “It’s like that sometimes.”
Sadly, it’s like that a lot for these Bobcats.