Walker leads Bobcats past Cavaliers

John Delong, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker always considers it a challenge to go up against Kyrie Irving, and Friday night Walker was definitely up to the task.
Walker scored 23 points and hit the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer with 58.3 seconds remaining, as the Charlotte Bobcats beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-84.
Walker's triple broke an 84-84 tie, as the Bobcats closed the game with a 6-0 run and held the Cavs without a point on their last four possessions.
"Kemba was outstanding tonight," said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who notched his first career victory with the win. "The thing about him obviously is his competitive spirit, that's what stands out. He wants the ball at the end of the game, he's highly competitive and he made the biggest shot tonight."
Walker, a third-year pro, was 8 of 14 from the field with three 3-pointers. He also had seven assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. He took great pride in holding Irving to 16 points, only four in the second half.
"I've known Kyrie for a while," Walker said. "His dad is from my neighborhood, I've seen him since he was a young player and it's fun to play against him.
"I'm just accepting the challenge from coach. He wants me to be a good defender and I'm just taking on the challenge, and I've gotten a lot of help from my teammates. And of course on offense, I just take whatever comes to me. It's all about opportunities. Those shots, coach puts me in position to make big plays like that, and if he's going to put me in that position, I have to step up and make the play."
The victory moved the Bobcats to 1-1, after a 96-83 loss at Houston on Wednesday to open the season. Cleveland, which had beaten Brooklyn at home 98-94 on Wednesday, is also 1-1.
"The biggest thing is we had enough fight and enough poise to make some big plays at the end," Clifford said. "Offensively it wasn't always pretty but I thought we had some really good defensive possessions in the last two minutes. We have hard-playing guys who played hard."
The Bobcats also got 15 points from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 11 points and 10 rebounds from Bismack Biyombo, and 10 points from Gerald Henderson.
Biyombo started in place of Al Jefferson, who has been plagued by a sprained right ankle since early in training camp. Jefferson played 30 minutes Wednesday night only to be forced back on the shelf Friday.
C.J. Miles led Cleveland with 22 points off the bench and Tristan Thompson had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Irving finished with 16 and Jarrett Jack 15.
The Bobcats jumped to a 30-23 lead after one quarter, led 54-49 at halftime, and 75-66 after three quarters. They pushed the lead to 10 in the first minute of the fourth.
But the Cavs chipped away at the lead and it was 84-84 after a drive by Miles with 2:08 remaining.
Walker eventually found himself working against Irving two possessions later, and he stepped back and nailed the 3-pointer to give the Bobcats an 87-84 lead with 58.3 seconds left. The Cavs wouldn't score again, and Henderson hit two free throws and Walker one from there.
"I saw the shot clock winding down, there were five or six seconds left," Walker said. "He didn't close out, so I just went up and shot it and was able to make it."
Cleveland coach Mike Brown cited defensive lapses and lack of energy early as his team's demise. The Cavs also shot just 38.1 percent from the field.
"That's two nights in a row that our first group has come out and taken basically the whole quarter to wake up," Brown said. "We had too many breakdowns defensively. Charlotte got easy bucket after easy bucket after easy bucket in the first quarter, and it was the same way against Brooklyn. So we have to do a better job with that first group knowing we've got to come out and defend."
NOTES: Andrew Bynum played 10 first-half minutes for the Cavs and finished with five points and three rebounds, as Brown eases Bynum back into action slowly after he missed all of last season with chronic knee issues. ... The teams played twice during the preseason, once in Canton and once in Charlotte, with the Bobcats winning both. ... This was the first regular-season meeting between the Zeller brothers, the Bobcats' Cody and the Cavs' Tyler. Cody scored nine, Tyler went scoreless. ... In the stands was Paul Silas, a former head coach of both the Cavs and the Bobcats. Silas remains an advisor with the Bobcats. ... The Bobcats' Brendan Haywood is out at least two months with a stress fracture in his left foot. ... The Cavs were starting a two-game road trip and will continue on at Indiana on Saturday. ... The Bobcats will play at New Orleans on Saturday. ... The Bobcats have 10 home games in the month of November.

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