CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—The atmosphere in Charlotte’s locker room was far different than Philadelphia’s after the two teams finished their seasons Wednesday night.
Matt Carroll scored 24 points and the Bobcats set a franchise record with their fourth straight victory, 96-86 over the 76ers.
Melvin Ely added 18 points for the second-year Bobcats, who closed the season at 26-56, eight more wins than last season
“Considering what we did, finishing with 26 wins and a four-game win streak, despite the injuries, we can count this as an excellent season,” Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace said as he laughed and joked with teammates and reporters.
But in the 76ers’ locker room, players were slumped at their lockers after a season that began with high hopes, but ended with a 38-44 record.
John Salmons scored 19 points for the 76ers, who committed 24 turnovers and played without their top two scorers, Allen Iverson and Chris Webber. The 76ers, who missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, now face an uncertain offseason.
“There are going to be changes,” forward Kyle Korver said. “Maybe some guys don’t want to be back next year, I don’t know. I would like to be back and hopefully we can come back and play a little better next year.”
Perhaps the most anticipated moment of the final regular-season game for the two non-playoff teams was when Iverson and Webber walked from the tunnel to the Philadelphia bench early in the first quarter. Both players, sitting out with injuries, arrived more than 90 minutes before the game.
A night earlier in a home game against New Jersey, Iverson and Webber showed up just before the start and didn’t sit on the bench, angering coach Maurice Cheeks and team president Billy King.
Iverson and Webber apologized before the game, and Cheeks also took some of the blame for a lack of communication.
Iverson left the bench in the second quarter, leading one fan to shout, “Where’s Iverson?” Webber did not return to the bench in the second half. A team official said the players went to the locker room.
There has been speculation the 76ers may have a roster overhaul in the offseason.
“When you have a bad season, everything is possible. As a team we failed,” said Cheeks after wrapping up his first season as Sixers’ coach. “It certainly wasn’t what I hoped or wanted, but that’s the way life is sometimes. I’m going to try to make myself better and this basketball team better.”
There was also intrigue surrounding the Bobcats, as it could have been the final game for Bernie Bickerstaff as coach. He’s contemplating whether to step down and become the full-time general manager. He’s held both roles since he was hired three years ago.
After the game, Bickerstaff said he would take his time before making a final decision.
“I’m just going to let things happen,” Bickerstaff said. “I hope to serve you in some capacity next year.”
Primoz Brezec hit back-to-back long jumpers to close the second quarter in a 6-0 run that put Charlotte ahead 49-41 at halftime.
Burleson’s layup with 8:11 left put the Bobcats ahead 78-66. The Bobcats hung on despite losing Jumaine Jones to a strained calf in the fourth quarter.
“That showed the progress we made as a team, we could close out the game,” said Wallace, who had seven points after missing the previous two games with bruised ribs. “It was fun.”
Cheeks said he would work with King to come up with a firm policy for when injured players should arrive for a game and whether they should sit on the bench. … Bobcats rookie Alan Anderson, who scored a career-high 18 points against New York on Monday, sat out with a shoulder injury. … Bobcats guard Brevin Knight, who missed his fifth straight game with a strained groin, will work as an analyst for NBA TV during the playoffs. … The Bobcats had their seventh sellout of the season.