WASHINGTON — Here was point guard Kemba Walkers message Wednesday after his Charlotte Bobcats beat the Washington Wizards 98-85:
If the Bobcats dont believe theyre worthy, why would anyone else?
Confidence is everything not just in basketball, in everything and I think we have a lot of confidence at this time, said Walker, whose team has won four of five overall and seven in a row at home.
We beat some really good teams and stayed in games with some really good teams. As long as we compete with the best every night.
Wednesday they competed for sure, hanging around long enough to watch the Wizards melt down late. The Bobcats got to the foul line 10 times the final quarter four of those by Walker to outscore the Wizards by 10 over the last 12 minutes.
As good as Wizards point guard John Wall was in the first half (18 points on 8-of-12 shooting), the gifted player who grew up in Raleigh lost his cool late, and it was costly. Wall committed a shooting foul on Walker outside the 3-point line with 41/2 minutes left.
That gave Walker three free throws and threw Wall into a mini-rage. Wizards coach Randy Wittman amplified the situation with a technical foul. By the time Washington got the ball back, the Bobcats had spread a three-point lead to seven.
Wall missed back-to-back free throws on the ensuing possession. Walker got the ball back and made a running 3-pointer with just over four minutes left that settled this one.
The Bobcats are 31-34, the Wizards 33-31. Never have these two beaten-down franchises been in playoff contention at the same time this late in an NBA season.
Its a whole different story now two teams trying to make the playoffs, two teams playing great basketball, two teams turning their organizations around, said Walker (16 points and five assists). Its good to see.
Its nice for center Al Jefferson (26 points and 10 rebounds), but he wasnt around for 28-120 over the previous two seasons. Walker and shooting guard Gerald Henderson can take a distinct satisfaction in this turnaround.
Especially for some of the guys whove been here, who went through all that, its nice to be racking up some wins, Walker said.
The Bobcats have been good defensively through most of this season, as the Wizards 85 points and 43 percent shooting at home demonstrated.
The offense is coming around of late; the Bobcats shot 49 percent on the road and got to the foul line 22 times to the Wizards nine. When the Bobcats outrebound the opposition (44-37) and earn more free-throw attempts, it fits the formula coach Steve Clifford has for success.
Clifford said Tuesday its not enough for the Bobcats just to reach the playoffs; they need to keep progressing, improving, to give themselves a chance once the postseason arrives.
Walker believes thats happening, too.
I think we get so much better every day, he said.
We practice like pros. Even when its a light practice, you can see the focus.
Percentages: FG .487, FT .773. Three-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Douglas-Roberts 2-2, McRoberts 1-4, Walker 1-4, Tolliver 1-5, Henderson 0-1, Ridnour 0-2). Team Rebounds: 8. Team Turnovers: 11 (9 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Henderson 2, Jefferson). Turnovers: 10 (Henderson 2, Jefferson 2, McRoberts 2, Zeller 2, Kidd-Gilchrist, Walker). Steals: 5 (Douglas-Roberts 2, McRoberts, Tolliver, Walker). Technicals: Defensive 3 second, 8:54 third.
Percentages: FG .427, FT .667. Three-Point Goals: 9-25, .360 (Wall 3-5, Harrington 2-4, Beal 2-5, Webster 1-4, Ariza 1-6, Miller 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: 14 (16 PTS). Blocked Shots: 4 (Gooden 2, Booker, Gortat). Turnovers: 14 (Ariza 4, Wall 4, Beal 2, Gooden 2, Booker, Miller). Steals: 3 (Beal, Harrington, Wall). Technical Fouls: Coach Wittman, 4:34 fourth.
Att.17,220 (20,308). T2:05.
OfficialsBill Kennedy, Kevin Scott, Ben Taylor.
Bonnell: Twitter: @rick_bonnell