Henderson, Walker lead Bobcats over Knicks
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Bobcats have a chance to shed the label of NBA’s worst team heading into the offseason.
The Bobcats enter the season finale Wednesday night tied with Orlando for the worst record in the NBA at 20-61. Both teams have one game left — the Bobcats host Cleveland, while the Magic visit Miami.
“We want to take care of that,” Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said. “It’s not been one of our goals to start the season, obviously, but it’s become a smaller goal for us as we’ve come down the stretch.”
The Bobcats finished an NBA-worst 7-59 last season, but have a chance to triple that win total and overtake the Magic in the win column if they beat the Cavs.
The Bobcats moved into a tie with the Magic on Monday night as Henderson scored 27 points and Kemba Walker had 23 points and a career-high 13 assists to defeat a New York Knicks team playing without Carmelo Anthony and several others 106-95.
“We got up and down and had good tempo and got a win,” Walker said. “I think our chemistry has gotten a lot better over the course of the season. And guys are making shots.”
Granted, it was a hollow victory of sorts given the Knicks only played seven guys. Coach Mike Woodson didn’t play Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Amar’e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin.
But it hardly mattered for the Bobcats in a season where victories have been rare and winning streaks even scarcer.
“We’ll take it,” Henderson said.
If the Bobcats beat the Cavaliers, they’ll close the season with three straight wins, matching their longest streak of the season.
The Bobcats left no doubt about the outcome Monday night.
Walker and Henderson combined to shoot 20 of 31 from the field and go 7 of 7 from the foul line. The Bobcats shot 64 percent in the first three quarters to build a 17-point lead and outrebounded the Knicks 37-25.
“Usually we have a lull in the third quarter, but we were very consistent there, so that was good,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said.
Center Bismack Biyombo added 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
Chris Copeland led the Knicks with 32 points, shooting 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
The Knicks started a lineup that included Copeland, Iman Shumpert, James White, Steve Novak and Pablo Prigioni. The Bobcats jumped on that crew early, building 30-17 first quarter lead while outrebounding the Knicks 12-4.
Charlotte shot 63 percent from the field in the first half and took a 54-45 lead into the locker room.
Walker essentially had his way with Prigioni early in the game nearly posting a double-double in the first half with 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Henderson scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
With the game well in hand, Walker only played 31 minutes.
Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace were the only Knicks to see action off the bench.
Wallace played his first game since Dec. 13 because of a sore left foot, but only played four minutes and scored two points. Wallace asked Woodson to take him out of the game, saying the foot was still sore.
“We’ll evaluate him tomorrow morning to see how he feels and gauge it that way,” Woodson said. “He tried it and I thought he looked pretty good in the short minutes he was out there, but we’ll know more tomorrow. I’m not saying it’s a setback, but it’s a little sore.”
Woodson said his team never got into a flow on defense.
“That was kind of disappointing,” Woodson said. “Offensively, we scored enough points. We just couldn’t get stops. They kind of had their way offensively tonight. So it’s a game that the guys we started got an opportunity to play a lot of minutes to get ready for the Atlanta game on Wednesday and then the Boston series.”
Josh McRoberts, who’ll be a free agent after the season, continues to play solid basketball for the Bobcats, scoring 10 points, while handing out eight assists and grabbing seven rebounds.
The Bobcats have played much better as a team since acquiring McRoberts in a trade with the Magic for Hakim Warrick.
NOTES: NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said if the Bobcats decided to change their name to the Hornets after the season the process would take at least 18 months. The Bobcats have not applied for a name change. … The two teams combined to shoot 26 of 27 from the foul line. … Hip-hop artist Nelly was in attendance in the front row.