When the Hornets’ Trevor Ariza faked a pass and bolted past Gerald Henderson in the final seconds, Henderson suspected Ariza’s lane to the hoop for a potential game-tying score wasn’t quite as open as it looked.
Ariza still had to contend with Bobcats rookie Bismack Biyombo, who knew better than to stray too far from the hoop with the game in the balance.
Biyombo went up with both arms extended and blocked Ariza’s driving dunk attempt, allowing the Charlotte Bobcats to celebrate a 73-71 victory in the Big Easy on Monday night.
”I just knew Bismack was going to be there,” Henderson said after a matchup of two of the NBA’s worst teams produced a thrilling finish. ”I didn’t know if they were going to call a foul or not, but I knew he was going to go up and get the ball.”
Henderson scored 15 points and Kemba Walker added 14, including 10 during a decisive 22-5 run that spanned from late in the third quarter to midway through the fourth. Biyombo finished with 12 points for Charlotte, which still has the league’s worst record at 6-34 but snapped a three-game losing streak thanks to Biyombo’s fourth and final block.
Chris Kaman, who was guarded by Biyombo, initially tried to stay far enough from the basket to prevent the 6-foot-9 Biyombo from getting to the hoop in time to help. Biyombo said he knew there was a risk in leaving Kaman open as Ariza neared the basket.
”I had to make a decision and once I saw (Ariza) jumping in the air, I thought, `I can block that shot,”’ Biyombo said. ”I thought, `Just jump smart and don’t foul.’ Thank God, we got the victory.”
Jarrett Jack had 15 points and nine assists for New Orleans, which has lost five of six in falling to 10-32.
”We came out of halftime going through the motions,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ”We should have played better than this.
”When you lose a game like that, you tend to say things you probably need to evaluate before you say them,” Williams added. ”I don’t want to verbalize all the emotions I feel.”
Kaman had 12 points and 16 rebounds, while Marco Belinelli and Ariza each scored 12 points for the Hornets.
After trailing most of the game, Charlotte surged in front with a 12-2 run to close the third quarter, hitting 10 of 15 shots.
Walker started the spurt with a 10-foot jumper and added another from 19 feet, along with a layup. Biyombo dunked and Henderson closed the period with a fast-break jam as he was fouled to make it 61-55 heading into the fourth quarter, which Charlotte opened with a 10-3 run with all reserves on the court.
New Orleans suddenly regained the momentum on Al-Farouq Aminu’s dunk with 5:41 left. The Hornets scored 11 straight points to close to 71-69.
Trailing 73-71, the Hornets got one last possession with 11 seconds to go to shoot for the tie or win. After Charlotte used up a foul to force an inbound pass with 5.2 seconds remaining, Aminu found Ariza on a curling run with a seemingly open lane to the hoop. Biyombo got there just in time to alter the shot. Kaman desperately tried to snag the rebound for a putback in a crowd of players underneath, but the ball bounced away as time expired.
”Trevor attacks the basket, which is what you should do in that situation,” Williams said. ”Biyombo just makes a great play.”
The Bobcats shot 43 percent (34 of 79) despite going 0 for 12 from 3-point range, with Reggie Williams missing all seven of his attempts from deep. Charlotte also outrebounded New Orleans 47-37.
The game matched two of the three worst teams in the league and some of the statistics reflected that. The Bobcats committed 19 turnovers and the Hornets 17. New Orleans shot 38.5 percent (30 of 78).
Still, both teams appeared to be playing for pride down the stretch, even though at this point losses may do their rebuilding efforts more good by increasing their chances of landing the top overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft lottery.
Notes: All of Charlotte’s points in the fourth quarter were scored by reserves. … The NBA hoped to bill the game as the first in league history in which two Mexico natives played against one another, but veteran Bobcats F Eduardo Najera had his right knee drained and was unable to play against countryman and Hornets F Gustavo Ayon. … Bobcats starting F Corey Maggette left the game with back spasms after playing 10 minutes and scoring 2 points in the first half.