Bobcats top Cavs, avoid NBA cellar

John Delong, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats wanted to escape the NBA cellar, and they were able to accomplish that goal on Wednesday night.
The Bobcats pulled out a 105-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, enabling them to finish 21-61 and one game ahead of Orlando in the standings.
Kemba Walker led the way with 24 points and 10 assists, including 15 in the decisive fourth quarter, as the Bobcats closed the season on a three-game winning streak -- matching their longest winning streak of the season. They also wound up winning eight of their last 10 home games.
"I think there's some satisfaction that we didn't finish with the worst record in the league," Walker said. "For me, the excitement is that we finished strong. We were in a lot of games toward the end of the season, we fought really hard, and we came away with three big wins at the end. We really wanted to win these games, and we did."
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said the three-game winning streak was indicative of the team's growth -- Charlotte was 7-9 over the last 16 games -- and that it would provide optimism going into the offseason.
"I really, really feel excited about the prospects of the future," Dunlap said. "I think we put some pillars of foundation into this ground. We clearly were an improved team late in the season. Some of the things you can talk about, some of the things you can't describe, but it's all really positive."
The Bobcats improved by 14 wins from an NBA record-worst 7-59 record last season.
"Let's put it in perspective," Dunlap said. "You're talking about the worst team in the history of the NBA. I've always said, 'Inch by inch, life is a cinch, yard by yard, it's hard.' So I didn't expect us to go from seven wins to 40 wins. I just wanted steady progress."
This was a bizarre game, perhaps what was to be expected from two of the league's three worst teams in a relatively meaningless season finale.
The Bobcats raced to a 34-16 lead after one quarter and led 46-22 five minutes into the second quarter. But Cleveland rallied and cut the margin to 53-47 at halftime, and then went on to take the lead at 77-76 on Dion Waiters' drive with 9:31 left. But Walker hit a 3-pointer and two free throws moments later to give the Bobcats a cushion, and the Bobcats wound up pushing the lead back up to nine down the stretch.
Walker finished 6 of 16 from the field. He was 9 of 12 from the free-throw line -- all in the fourth quarter.
"It was a rough night for me," Walker said. "I was kinda tired. My wind wasn't right for some reason. But I tried to push through and stay aggressive and will this team to a win."
The Bobcats also got 20 points from Josh McRoberts, 15 points from Gerald Henderson and 11 from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 24 points and 10 assists. The Cavs also got 16 points from Waiters off the bench and 13 each from Alonzo Gee and Wayne Ellington. Tristan Thompson finished with 10 rebounds.
For the Cavs, who finished 24-58 for the third-worst record in the NBA, it was the end of a miserable finish. The Cavs wound up losing their last six and 16 of their last 18.
"It's frustrating more than anything, just because we haven't had our full complement of players," coach Byron Scott said. "It was frustrating with the injuries. But it's still a growing process. I think our guys are still getting better and hopefully next year we'll be healthy. That's my biggest wish: that we get healthy."
NOTES: Published reports say Scott could be fired as early as Thursday. ... Walker had two steals to finish the season with 160, a franchise record. ... Thompson and Gee both started, making them the first pair of players to start all 82 games for the Cavs since Andre Miller and Clarence Weatherspoon in 2000-01. The Cavs are one of only two teams this season to have two players start all 82 games. Houston (Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin) was the other. ... The Cavs played without Anderson Varejao (vastus medialis split), C.J. Miles (concussion) and Luke Walton (sprained ankle). ... The Bobcats were without Ramon Sessions (sprained knee), Brendan Haywood (stress reaction, foot), DeSagana Diop (knee) and Byron Mullens (ankle). Sessions wound up missing the final 21 games.

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