Missed free throws cost 'Cats in loss to Kings
Charlotte failed to make the most of its free chances on Saturday against Sacramento, and ended up paying the price.
The Bobcats (10-32) made just 26-of-38 shots from the free throw line in a 97-93 loss to the Kings at Time Warner Cable Arena on Saturday.
"The beginning and end of this story was that we got to the free throw line 38 times and shot 68 percent," said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap. "You can talk about this play didn't go or that shot didn't go in, but when in these situations in all of the experience I've had in my career, when you lose these kinds of games, look at your free throw stat. It's either a good number or it's a sad number. Tonight, we really executed. We knew that we could get into the paint, but we weren't able to capitalize on that in the free throw line."
Kings coach Keith Smart expected a difficult test from a hungry Charlotte squad.
"We knew this team was going to give us a fight," Smart said. "This team, even in their long losing streak this year, competed against every team they've played in front of for the most part. You have a few glitches where they didn't play well against teams, but overall, (Charlotte) is going to play hard every single night. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game for us. We had to make a lot plays."
Coming off of a 106-100 victory Friday in Orlando against the Magic, the Bobcats failed to win back-to-back games for only the third time this season.
The last time Charlotte won two-straight NBA contests was two months ago when it knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 19 (102-98) and Toronto Raptors on Nov. 21 (98-97).
"It was definitely a tough loss," said Bobcats forward Jeff Adrien. "We battled all night. We just have to find a way to squeeze those last-minute games out. There have been a couple of them. We just have to figure out how to win those close ones."
Charlotte led only three times in Saturday's contest, including 1-0 after the game's opening point on a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist free throw.
The Bobcats wouldn't lead again until Ben Gordon connected on back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter, giving the 'Cats a 29-28 advantage.
Charlotte's final lead came at the 3:34 mark of the fourth quarter when Gerald Henderson took a pass from Kemba Walker, cut through the middle of the lane and converted on a lay up.
Walker, who tallied 14 points, 10 assists and four rebounds against the Kings, had a chance to be the game-winning hero for his team late, but couldn't come through in the clutch.
After the Kings' Isaiah Thomas made 1-of-2 free throws to put Sacramento up 95-93, Dunlap called a timeout with 18.4 seconds left to set up the dramatic last-second play.
Following the ensuing in-bounds, the basketball eventually found its way into Walker's hands, but the second-year guard hesitated on his shot.
Rethinking and pump-faking his first 3-point shot attempt, Walker's second try at a trey sailed wide left of the rim.
"They gave pretty good pressure," Walker said of the Kings' defense of his shot. "I thought I had an open shot. I kind of hesitated. I could have shot it right away. I was pretty open right away. I kind of hesitated. It's like that sometimes."
Thomas would make another free throw after being fouled again, and a last-second heave by Gordon missed at the buzzer to close out Sacramento's thrilling victory.
Ramon Sessions paced the Bobcats with 16 points and five rebounds off of the bench.
Sacramento's leading scorer — Marcus Thornton — also came off of the bench for his team, netting 18 points.
Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins also tallied his fourth-straight double-double by adding 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"We executed pretty well," Cousins said. "We're known to make some mistakes down the stretch, but we showed growth tonight in these close situations, and we made some good plays."
Charlotte tries to rebound on Monday during a rare day game when it welcomes Houston for a 2 p.m. matinee.
Walker said the early start time doesn't matter to he and his teammates.
"We just have to come ready to play against a really good team," he said. "We've been losing some pretty close games. We definitely need a home win. It's been a long time."