Bismack Biyombo ended the first half Saturday with a bad pass that resulted in an easy basket for Milwaukee.
But the Bobcats center closed the second half with a thunderous, two-handed dunk that brought the small Time Warner Cable Arena crowd to its feet and elicited a reaction from the Bobcats’ bench that has been as rare as wins this season.
Biyombo notched his sixth double-double, Kemba Walker poured in 21 points and Josh McRoberts played a superb, all-around game to lead the Bobcats to a 95-85 victory over a Bucks’ team headed to the playoffs, albeit as a sub-.500, No. 8 seed.
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The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Bobcats, who won for the sixth time in their last eight home games and gained a game on Orlando in the dubious race to avoid the NBA’s worst record.
Charlotte (19-61) is a game behind Orlando with home games remaining against New York and Cleveland.
With the loss, Milwaukee (37-43) is locked in as the 8th seed in the East, and will face defending-champion Miami in the first round of the playoffs.
“It was good to see the guys have fun tonight. A lot of smiles on the floor,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “For an arduous season, they did a great job of just enjoying each other’s company.”
Biyombo matched a career high with 17 rebounds, while McRoberts flirted with a triple-double. The former Duke forward finished with season-high 18 points, nine rebounds and a career-best nine assists.
McRoberts, who came to Charlotte in a trade with Orlando in February, was two points off his career high in scoring.
When Dunlap was asked about McRoberts after the game, the first thing he mentioned was his passing. McRoberts assisted on four consecutive baskets in the first half as the Bobcats built a double-digit lead.
“Just getting the opportunity to handle the ball, being able to make plays for other guys, that’s what I’m more comfortable with,” McRoberts said. “I’m never going to be a guy that’s going to score 30 a night. But I think I can help make other guys better and help make plays for other guys.”
The Bucks were within five points at the half, but the Bobcats stretched the lead to as many as 18 in the second half. Dunlap said his team’s rebounding – the Bobcats held a 52-36 edge on the boards – limited Milwaukee’s attempts to swing momentum.
“We gave them one crack at it,” Dunlap said. “We were able to just say to them, ‘You better make that shot,’ because we did a great job on the defensive boards.”
Biyombo had 11 defensive rebounds and made 6-of-9 field goals for his second double-double in the past four games. Biyombo remains a work in progress, with his first-half giveaway just the latest evidence.
But the 20-year-old is making progress, and on a night like Saturday the warts – his and the organization’s – were easier to overlook.
“It’s always good to smile. It has been a tough season for all of us in this locker room,” Biyombo said. “The season has not gone the way we expected. But over time little things are getting better. It’s a long way to go. We’ve got a (bright) future. We’re young. So the good thing is we’re learning every day.”