Charlotte Bobcats co-captain Gerald Henderson summed up one of the wilder wins in franchise history this way:
“You can’t beat anybody without getting stops. We do too much preparation to waste it” the way they often have this season.
These were stops: Two bad passes thrown by Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza and a charge called against point guard John Wall. Kemba Walker had one of those steals and drew the charge. In between, he scored on two drives and a pull-up 12-footer.
All that in a span of just more than two minutes of the fourth quarter added up to a 119-114 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I couldn’t tell you what happened. It just happened so fast – like BAM!’ ” said ex-Bobcat Emeka Okafor, now the Wizards’ center. “We were up five, then all of a sudden we were down six. I was (thinking), ‘What? What?’ ”
Beating the 23-43 Wizards isn’t exactly a reason to pop corks, but in a season when the Bobcats are 15-52, closing out a game they trailed by five with just more than three minutes left spelled progress.
This was just the second time during the past two seasons that the Bobcats won a season series with an Eastern Conference opponent. Last season that victim was the Toronto Raptors. This season the Bobcats won three of four against the Wizards.
The two earlier victories were aided by Wall missing November games with a stress reaction in his left knee.
This was different; Wall had just been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. That was representative of a roll when he was averaging about 24 points and 11 assists.
Monday, Wall’s key statistics were six turnovers and six fouls, sending him the bench late. Sure, he scored 25 points, but Walker clearly outplayed him down the stretch. It didn’t help that Washington big man Nene (21 points) was also in foul trouble.
“We knew Nene had five fouls,” said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap. “We went to the pick-and-roll; we knew he’d play it soft. It was Kemba’s game from there.”
Walker finished with 18 points, seven assists and three steals, but he had plenty of help, too. Henderson had 27 points, eight assists and a stunningly athletic block of Trevor Booker at the rim. Ben Gordon added 19 points off the bench.
Gordon and Henderson each made 3-pointers in the decisive run. So even on a night when Time Warner Cable Arena was half-deserted (announced attendance of 10,141), the people who did show up got a show.
And a young team got some reward for staying engaged to a process.
“At times we played really well. Other times we didn’t,” Walker said. “But we stayed with it.”