Kemba Walker’s 31 points good for a Bobcats victory over Nets

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comNovember 20, 2013 

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    •  The upper deck of Time Warner Cable Arena looked so empty Wednesday night you could have thought it was closed off.

    •  The Bobcats’ schedule has been rough early – lots of games and lots of trips – but it’s about to improve. They play five of six at home, starting with that Nets game.

    •  As expected, Al Jefferson (bone bruise along his right ankle) sat out the Nets game. Bobcats are hopeful Jefferson practices Thursday and plays Friday against the Phoenix Suns.

    •  The Bobcats got back to generating trips to the foul line in the first half, but they weren’t converting those opportunities: 9 of 18 on free throws.

    •  Owner Michael Jordan was at courtside, next to the Bobcats’ bench. He doesn’t sit down there all that often these days.

    •  Jefferson’s absence was balanced off by the Nets being without center Brook Lopez (sprained absence). The Nets went relatively small in Lopez’s absence, starting Reggie Evans in the middle. That gave Bobcats coach Steve Clifford the flexibility to play Jeff Adrien more as a center.

    •  Just from the signage around Time Warner Cable Arena, it’s apparent the Bobcats’ business side has made progress this year in selling sponsorships.

Kemba Walker hit two free throws with six seconds left to give the Charlotte Bobcats a 95-91 victory against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Walker carried the Bobcats (6-6) offensively with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field. The Nets (3-8) got 25 points from Andre Blatche.

The Bobcats continued to have problems giving up 3-pointers. The Nets made nine of their first 18 attempts outside the arc, and cut what had been a 16-point deficit to six with 1 ½ minutes left. That came on a layup by reserve big man Blatche.

On the following possessions, Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions was caught in a trap and gave up the ball. But Paul Pierce missed an ensuing jump shot and the Bobcats’ Walker rebounded.

Blatche scored again on a layup after another scoreless possession by the Bobcats. Then Sessions again gave up the ball in a trap, and fouled Nets guard Shaun Livingston to avoid a breakaway with 26.9 seconds left. Pierce found Blatche underneath the rim with 12 seconds left to make it a two-point game.

The Bobcats spread their 3-point halftime lead to as much as 16 in the third quarter before entering the fourth quarter up 83-70. Walker had another big quarter, scoring 13 in the third off 5-of-7 shooting.

Walker has struggled with his shooting since injuring his left shoulder in a road victory against the New York Knicks. But he made 11 of his first 16 attempts Wednesday.

The advantage in the lane kept growing, with the Bobcats scoring 50 points in the paint to Brooklyn’s 22. Part of that was foul trouble for the Nets’ Kevin Garnett, who committed five in his first 21 minutes played.

The Bobcats led 53-50 at halftime, having shot 58 percent from the field in the first half. The Bobcats were particularly effective at getting to the rim – 36 of 53 points were scored in the lane.

Walker got that started with 12 points in the first quarter on 5-of-7 shooting. Walker’s backup at point guard, Sessions, was also effective off the dribble, scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 first-half shooting and five trips to the foul line.

The trouble was the Bobcats squandered many of their free-throw opportunities, making 9 of 18 from the line before halftime. Starters Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Josh McRoberts were a combined 0 of 4 from the line in that span.

The Bobcats again played without low-post scorer Al Jefferson, who has missed the past three games with a bone bruise on his right ankle. Coach Steve Clifford hopes to have Jefferson back for Friday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns.

The Nets were also missing their starting center, as Brook Lopez out with a sprained ankle. Worse yet for Brooklyn, point guard Deron Williams landed on Walker’s foot in the second quarter, severely turning his left ankle and ending his night on the court.

Williams wasn’t doing much before that, missing four of his five shots from the field and struggling to keep Walker from going to the rim or pulling up with space for jump shots.

This was the first of a sizeable swing of home games for the Bobcats. They play five of six at Time Warner Cable Arena, the only exception a trip to Milwaukee for a Saturday game against the Bucks.

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