Gerald Henderson hit two free throws with 11 seconds left Friday night to give the Charlotte Bobcats a 90-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Point guard Kemba Walker led the Bobcats (1-1) with 23 points and seven assists. Power forward Tristan Thompson finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Walker hit a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left to break an 84-84 tie. He took another 3, with the shot clock about to expire, that rimmed out with about 20 seconds left that would have clinched the game.
Cleveland’s Jarrett Jack air-balled a 3-point attempt out of bounds, giving the Bobcats back possession with 12.2 seconds left.
The Cavaliers trimmed the deficit to one midway through the third quarter before several turnovers led to easy Charlotte transition baskets. The Bobcats entered the fourth quarter up nine.
The Cavs tied the game at 76-76 before the Bobcats ran off five straight points, ending on Kemba Walker’s pull-up jump shot over Cleveland center Anderson Varejao. In the course of that run the Bobcats put the Cavs in the penalty situation for the game’s last seven minutes.
Even without top scoring option Al Jefferson the Bobcats shot 50 percent in the first half. They led by as much as 11 in the second quarter before going to halftime up 54-49.
Jack made a shot from the other side of mid-court, but it didn’t leave his hands until after the halftime buzzer.
Jefferson’s sprained right ankle was too stiff and sore for him to play, after he played in the opener Wednesday in Houston. Jefferson was limping noticeably and couldn’t participate in the morning shootaround, so the Bobcats deactivated him. His status for Saturday’s game in New Orleans was yet to be determined.
Bismack Biyombo started in Jefferson’s place and had a strong first half. He made all three of his shots and grabbed seven rebounds in 181/2 minutes. Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who struggled offensively throughout the preseason, was aggressive with his drives Friday, scoring nine points in the first half. Walker finished the half with 12 points and four assists.
The Bobcats got the Cavaliers in foul trouble in both the first two quarters, with the Cavs in the penalty at least six minutes each period. That was good for 16 first-half free-throw attempts by the Bobcats.
Forward Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland, committed two quick fouls and played just six minutes of the first half, going scoreless.
With Jefferson out, Jeff Adrien and rookie Cody Zeller both filled in some at center behind Biyombo. Zeller finished the half with eight points off 4-of-7 shooting. He was briefly matched against his older brother, Tyler, a former star at North Carolina.
Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving and Thompson combined to shoot 9-of-17 in the first half. But the nine other Cavaliers who played in the first half shot a miserable 9-of-26.
The Bobcats finish a busy first week – three games in four nights – against the Pelicans tonight.