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Bobcats beat Magic for second win in last three games

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO -- The Charlotte Bobcats didn't look like the worst team in the NBA Tuesday night.

The Orlando Magic did. And they might soon have a lock on that unwelcome distinction.

The battle for the NBA's worst record got a little tighter Tuesday after Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker each scored 24 points to lead the Bobcats to a 105-92 victory over the Magic.

The Magic (15-38) have lost 25 of their last 28 games.

The Bobcats (13-40) have won two of their last three, returning from the All-Star break with some newfound confidence.

"We know we have the worst record. Everyone in this locker room knows it," said Walker. "But we have a chance to not have that. And we're going to keep playing hard to avoid it. We've got a young team with a bright future."

Walker, who had only four points in the first half, saved his best for last, scoring 11 points in the final four minutes to hold off a late Magic rally. He added seven assists, three steals and four rebounds.

Byron Mullens had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Charlotte. Henderson also had 10 rebounds.

"Whether you have the best record or the worst record, you still want to go out and play hard," Mullen said. "We know what our record is, and it's always on your mind, but this is a growing process for us. We're going to keep fighting and keep improving."

Orlando's Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 11 rebounds, his 30th double-double of the season, which is tied for the third most in the NBA. Arron Afflalo had 18 points, including three free throws with four minutes remaining that pulled the Magic within two points, the closest they had been since the first quarter.

The Bobcats cooled off in the second half after scoring 63 points in the first half, needing Walker's heroics to hold off the Magic rally.

"Our young guys can see how much we're improving," said Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap. "Our biggest problem has been closing people out in close games, and that's a chapter we haven't been to yet. We hope to be there in this last part of the season."

The Bobcats led by 10 points after the first quarter, by 20 at halftime and by 10 going into the final period.

The Magic scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, cutting the halftime deficit in half. They still trailed by 10 going into the fourth quarter.

The Bobcats led, 63-43, at intermission, getting 18 points from Henderson and 14 from Mullens. They also shot 59 percent (26 of 44) from the field.

The Bobcats entered the game with the lowest field-goal percentage in the NBA (42.1 percent), but they hit 15 of 22 shots (68.2 percent) in the first quarter when they scored 37 points. It was the most points they have scored this season in the first quarter, and the most the Magic have allowed.

"I think how poor we were defensively in the first half has been why we've been losing the past month or two," Afflalo said. "We didn't win tonight, but I thought we grew tonight in the second half."

The Bobcats are home Wednesday against Detroit, while the Magic play in Dallas.

NOTES: It won't be an easy road for the Magic in the final nine weeks of the season. Of their remaining 29 games, 21 are against teams that currently would qualify for the playoffs. "These are teams that will be jockeying for playoff position. They won't have any sympathy for us," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "We have to have an aggressive approach every night." ... It's easy to see why these are the two worst teams in the NBA. The Magic haven't won back-to-back games since mid-December, and the Bobcats haven't won back to back since mid-November. ... Charlotte's second-year point guard Kemba Walker has had some rocky moments in an otherwise good season, but he has shined against the Magic, getting 32 and 25 points in the first two meetings this season. ... J.J. Redick remains the most talked about Magic player heading into Thursday's trade deadline. A big reason is his contract status, the final year of a deal paying him $6.2 million. His name has been linked to potential trades involving the Celtics, Bulls, Bucks and Spurs. He has said he would like to stay in Orlando, but he will be exploring all options this summer as a free agent. "This is a business. I have to make a business decision," he said. "A team is going to do what it feels is best for the team. And there won't be any hard feelings if I get traded."
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