Bobcats end year with 23rd straight loss

The Charlotte Bobcats couldn’t even beat a Knicks team resting most of its starters, finishing with the worst winning percentage in NBA history after a 104-84 loss Thursday night.

J.R. Smith scored 22 points for the Knicks, who pulled away in the second half to clinch the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed and a first-round playoff matchup against No. 2 Miami beginning Saturday.

Gerald Henderson had 21 points for the Bobcats, whose 23rd consecutive loss left them with a winning percentage of .106 (7-59) in the lockout-shortened season. The record was set 39 years ago, when the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers finished 9-73 (.110) in a full 82-game campaign.

The Knicks held out Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis, while Amar’e Stoudemire had 21 points over two quarters.

With owner Michael Jordan watching from a luxury box, the Bobcats played nearly even with the Knicks in the first half, leading twice and only trailing 46-44 at halftime.

Charlotte’s biggest lead came in the closing minutes of the first quarter, with Bismack Biyombo’s dunk with 5:05 remaining putting the Bobcats up 14-11. However, the Knicks closed the period with a 12-6 run to go up 23-20.

Charlotte would lead once more in the second quarter, with DeSagana Diop’s layup with 9:28 left capping a five-point run to put the Bobcats up 25-23. The Knicks responded with six straight points, though, going ahead 29-25 on Smith’s dunk with 8:14 left.

Charlotte managed to tie the score three times in the final minutes of the second quarter, the last at 41-41 with 1:56 left on Henderson’s layup. But Smith hit a three-pointer 17 seconds later to put the Knicks ahead, and Jerome Jordan followed with a jumper to give New York a two-point halftime edge.

However, Stoudemire asserted himself in the third quarter, scoring 11 points in the period as the Knicks pushed their lead into double digits.

New York would take its biggest lead late in the fourth quarter with Jordan’s fast-break dunk with 4:38 remaining putting the Knicks up 99-76.

Josh Harrellson added 18 points, Jordan 13 and Iman Shumpert 12 for New York. Mike Bibby also had 12 assists.

Kemba Walker had 13 points, D.J. Augustin 12 and D.J. White added 11 for Charlotte.