CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — With Charlotte mired in a six-game losing streak, coach Paul Silas was desperate for a spark.
He found one in rookie Kemba Walker.
Walker scored a career-high 23 points in his first NBA start to lift the Bobcats to a 112-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
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Silas benched veteran Boris Diaw, saying he wanted to see a different look with a smaller lineup. Diaw, who had started a franchise-record 235 straight games, had scored just three points in the last two games and had drawn criticism recently from Silas for his inconsistent play.
“We weren’t playing with that much energy and we weren’t getting that much out of Boris, to tell you the truth,” Silas said.
Walker, who proved he’s a winner by leading Connecticut to a national title last season, provided instant energy.
He scored 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting in the first quarter as the Bobcats built a 38-25 lead.
Walker found all sorts of ways to score early on, hitting a pair of 3-pointers, a fast-break layup and a nifty reverse layup. He used his ability to get to the basket to draw three fouls and drained all five free throws.
The 38 points were the most by the Bobcats in a quarter this season.
“It’s always different starting, of course rather than coming off the bench,” Walker said. “I got a chance to really play myself into a rhythm and just pick the tempo up early. I wanted to set the tone. That’s what we did.”
After the game, Diaw took the demotion in stride.
“You know it’s a tough decision,” Diaw said. “(Silas) is trying to do the best thing possible to win the game.”
Silas said Walker will continue to start.
Walker seemed to bring out the best in everyone.
Gerald Henderson, playing in the small forward spot for the first time since his college days at Duke, snapped out of a mini-slump with a season-high 26 points. Center Byron Mullens scored 20 points and had seven rebounds, marking the ninth time in 11 games he’s scored in double digits.
Before the game, Silas was a little worried about a size disadvantage by trotting out the combination of the 6-foot-1 Walker and 6-foot D.J. Augustin, but it didn’t turn out to be a huge factor.
The Warriors only outrebounded the Bobcats by four. The Bobcats more than made up for it by shooting 50 percent from the field.
The Bobcats were much more aggressive with Walker in the starting lineup, getting to the free throw line 38 times and converting 29.
Walker’s move to point guard caused nearly wholesale changes to the Bobcats’ starting lineup. Augustin moved to shooting guard, Henderson to small forward and Tyrus Thomas went from the No. 3 spot back to power forward where Diaw had been playing.
“Oh boy, it was just wonderful tonight to see the guys just play and just run the court,” Silas said. “We were talking about running and they did it tonight. A little change I thought really helped that, putting Kemba in. I think time is the key to life and it was the right time for him to get in there and he’s ready. He’s played like 11 or 12 games so far and he was ready.”
The Bobcats led by as many as 22, but the Warriors cut the lead to six late in the fourth quarter.
However, Walker hit a jumper to set a new career high and then drove the lane and drew a foul to put the Bobcats back up by double digits and seal their third win of the season.
The Warriors fell to 3-8 on the season, losing a game they didn’t expect to lose.
David Lee scored 21 of his 24 points in the first half and finished with 16 rebounds.
“There’s no way we should have lost that game,” said Lee. “We just played (bad).”
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said for the first time this season he was “embarrassed” by his team’s performance.
“We didn’t show up,” Jackson said. “As a coach, that’s on me. Somehow my guys didn’t come out ready to play. We jumped on them early and took our foot off the gas. We thought it was going to be easy… This type of effort cannot be accepted.”
Jackson said he felt like his team overlooked the Bobcats.
“This is the NBA and when you think you can just walk into a building and think you can beat them, it’s not going to happen,” Jackson said. “These are legitimate players and we let them do whatever they wanted to do. It was action they were very familiar with and we made them comfortable and they picked us apart. It’s a disappointing loss.”
NOTES: This is the eighth time in 11 tries this season that an NBA team has won the third game in back-to-back-to-back games. … Diaw scored nine points off the bench for the Bobcats. … The Bobcats were 7 of 13 on 3-point shots, while the Warriors were 5 of 20. … Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was sitting courtside with his fiancee Yvette Prieto.