Henderson's 3-pointer pushes 'Cats past 'Wolves
Charlotte's lengthy home losing streak is over thanks to the clutch shooting of guard Gerald Henderson.
With the shot clock expiring and game winding down, Henderson drilled a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to help Charlotte come away with a 102-101 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.
The home victory is Charlotte's first since defeating the Toronto Raptors, 98-97, on Nov. 21 — snapping a 16-game skid at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Charlotte (11-32) was just two more home losses shy of tying the worst home losing streak in NBA history set by the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks.
"It's been a long time at home to get one of those," said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap of the win. "We just kept digging. The way we started the game, we were flat. We found a combination of players off of the bench that really were very, very good. Then, some of those guys that were starters came back in and jumped on the momentum a little bit."
Despite being without six players due to injury and head coach Rick Adelman because of a family illness, the Timberwolves (17-24) came out fighting.
Minnesota pulled out to a 58-47 lead in the first half by shooting 51.2 percent from the field. Luke Ridnour led the charge with 11 points, while center Greg Stiemsma added 10 points.
Down as many as 18 points, the Bobcats rallied in the second half behind a guard-heavy line up featuring Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon.
Walker led Charlotte in the breakthrough victory with 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.
"What I was thinking was get the guys on the floor that were playing well," Dunlap said of his second half strategy. "I didn't care if they were 5-foot nothing. I just said let's find five that can make that push."
Both coming off of the bench, Sessions added 23 points for the Bobcats, while Gordon chipped in 18 points.
Dunlap was extremely pleased with Sessions, who has become a spark plug recently off of the bench for his club.
"He had 12 points in the first half," Dunlap said. "That was a measurement for me and also he has a physical presence defensively. He is just nasty. He has a big heart. I like that about him. He comes to us with that."
Center Bismack Biyombo also had a breakout game for Charlotte, scoring 10 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for only his third double double of the season.
"There is a lot of work behind Bis," Dunlap said. "I always point to the fact that he is 20 years old. So, on the offensive end, he is on a three-year arc in order to get to what people would say is a polished player. On the defensive end, I would say or suggest that he is one of the better 6-9 guys in the pick-and-roll. When he is active, he is top 10 in the league as a 20 year old in blocked shots. He also is a guy who covers a lot of our mistakes just with his voice and how he commands respect in behind there. He is a force."
A 13-4 run to start the fourth quarter, which included a pull-up jumper by Walker at the 10:00 mark, carried the Bobcats into the lead for the first time.
Sessions scored six points during the run, while Walker added five points.
Despite trailing by eight points with 7:11 left in the game, a wounded 'Wolves squad started a rally of its own.
Going on a 10-2 run, a 3-pointer by Minnesota's J.J. Barea knotted the contest at 93-93 with just under four minutes left in the contest.
The Timberwolves' comeback was completed when Ricky Rubio made a reverse driving lay up with 29.2 seconds left to put Minnesota back in the lead late.
Dunlap was forced to call a timeout and set up his team's final chance to win the game.
That promising last play wasn't pretty and nearly included the Bobcats losing control of the ball on three separate occasions. However, those near mistakes set up the most thrilling game finish of the season.
With the shot clock ticking down and the basketball rolling into the backcourt, Walker made a key split-second decision after dribbling the ball back to mid court.
Walker found an open Henderson, who pump faked a block attempt by Andrei Kirilenko and confidently swished a 25-footer just before the shot clock expired to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
"I didn't think (Henderson) had time to get it off after the pump fake, but he did," Walker said. "I didn't know if it was going to go in or not, but he really took his time. He had a chance to gather himself, shot it with confidence and it went in."
Henderson was confident he would make the shot.
"When Kemba grabbed the ball, there were about five seconds," he said. "I knew I had some time. I just threw it up there. It feels great. We were in another (losing) streak. To get off of that streak at home is good."
On the ensuing Timberwolves possession, Walker tightly guarded Barea and forced him to commit a turnover to seal the 'Cats victory.
Ridnour led Minnesota with 22 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Barea added 19 points off of the bench, including four 3-pointers.
The Bobcats on the road for its next five games, including at Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, Miami and Cleveland.
The Bobcats return to Time Warner Cable Arena for a 7 p.m. contest on Feb. 8 against the L.A. Lakers (18-25).
Walker said Saturday's win was extremely important heading into a difficult road stretch for his team.
"It has been a long time coming, especially at home," he said. "We haven't been getting these wins, but hopefully we can build something from here."