For the second straight season the Charlotte Bobcats are off to a strong start.
But this time around point guard Kemba Walker feels a lot more confident about the chances of sustaining that success.
The Bobcats just might if Walker continues to play as he did on Wednesday night. The third-year pro scored a season-high 31 points and the Bobcats handed the turnover-prone Brooklyn Nets their sixth loss in their past seven games 95-91.
The win lifts the Bobcats to 6-6 on the season.
They started 7-5 last season under former coach Mike Dunlap before losing 18 straight games and finishing 21-61, the second-worst record in the league. Dunlap was fired.
This season, the Bobcats are finding success despite playing nine games without their best player, center Al Jefferson, who has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury.
"We are capable of a lot and being really, really good," Walker said. "We just have to be more consistent. Al is definitely going to help us a lot because he draws a lot of attention.
"If I can keep on having nights like this when he comes back it will be great for us. With Gerald (Henderson) and Ramon (Sessions) and our other role players I think we’ll be a tough team to play against every night."
New coach Steve Clifford believes the Bobcats haven’t started to tap their potential and believes the good start isn’t a mirage.
"We’re defending and rebounding," Clifford said. "We have yet to play any sustained time with our best offensive player. We’re playing younger guys so there is a lot of room for improvement."
Clifford said he hopes to have Jefferson back for Friday night’s game against Phoenix.
The Nets, meanwhile, aren’t so sure about when Deron Williams will return to the court after he sprained his ankle in the second quarter when he landed on Walker’s foot and his foot twisted inward. He fell to the floor in pain, holding his ankle.
He did not return to the game and finished with four points and two assists in 14 minutes.
"We don’t know how long he’s going to be out but, hopefully, it’s a speedy recovery," Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
Walker finished 12 of 20 from the field and knocked down four 3-pointers as the Bobcats snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Nets. The Bobcats nearly lost a 10-point lead with less than three minutes, but Walker hit two free throws with 6.1 seconds left to seal the win.
Walker said he’s been spending more time in the gym working on his jump shot and it paid off getting back to the basics.
"Lately I have been taking a lot of off-balanced shots and making it tough for myself," Walker said.
The Bobcats outscored the Nets 52-34 in the paint.
"We were just being aggressive and took whatever they gave us," Walker said. "There were a lot of open lanes and we took them and were able to score."
With owner Michael Jordan sitting on the end of the bench, the Bobcats started the second half with a 15-1 run to take control of the game. Walker had eight points during the stretch.
The Bobcats led 53-50 at halftime behind 58 percent shooting from the floor. Walker led the way with 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting.
Andray Blatche led the Nets with a season-high 25 points while Joe Johnson added 19.
However, the Nets had 18 turnovers and fell to 3-8.
"Fifty-two points in the paint is unacceptable," Blatche said. "Thirty-plus points in a quarter is unacceptable. It’s our song all season. We keep saying it’s early, but until we buckle down on defense, it’s going to be the same results. We’ve got to take pride because it’s embarrassing. It’s real embarrassing."
Said Kidd: "The defense is something that we’ve got to get better at. It’s something that we were working on the preseason and was something we thought coming into the season we could hold our hat on."
Charlotte continues to play good defense, holding its opponent to under 100 points for the ninth time in 12 games.
NOTES: Gerald Henderson scored 13 points and finished in double digits for the 10th time this season. . . . Nets guard Alan Anderson had a season-high 16 points. . . . The Bobcats are 6-1 in games decided by six points or fewer.