Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist rally Bobcats past Mavericks
Down 11 points at halftime, the Charlotte Bobcats rallied behind Kemba Walker and rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to force overtime and eventually come away with the 101-97 victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday in Charlotte.
"That was a huge win honestly," said Walker, who scored a season- and game-high 26 points in the victory. "A lot of guys played really well. We did things really well that we can build off of. Our defense was pretty good, especially down the stretch. We all want to build off of this, keep playing the way we played tonight and hopefully great things can happen for us."
Charlotte (2-3) started the game out solidly, pulling out to a 10-point lead four minutes into the game's first quarter. Walker had five poitns and four assists in the early run.
After their regular starters were substituted out, the Bobcats' bench started to falter, allowing Dallas (4-3) to cut its deficit to three points by the end of the first quarter.
As halftime approached, the Mavericks had taken the lead and grown it to 11 points behind 70 percent shooting from the 3-point territory.
Former UNC Tar Heel Vince Carter led that perimeter shooting effort with a trio of treys, while O.J. Mayo and Troy Murphy each knocked down two.
"We respect Dallas," said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap. "I think that Rick (Carlisle) is one of the best coaches obviously in the league. Their culture is high end. My point is that it is a feather in the cap for us to get it done at this time."
The Bobcats used a solid third quarter to pull back into the game, getting as close as three points after back-to-back turnovers from Dallas center Chris Kaman led to Charlotte buckets.
Dunlap said Walker, who was a big part of the Bobcats' comeback in Saturday's game, is likening to another familiar face and leader in the city of Charlotte.
"His temperament and him evolving, just like Cam Newton, into a quarterback," Dunlap said. "Finding his voice, running things, taking responsibility for our playbook and calling certain things instead of me calling them. That's all his development."
Walker, who also had eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds to go along with his 26 points in Saturday's contest, said he is constantly working on his individual game.
"I'm just trying to get better every day," Walker said. "My coaching staff believes in me. My teammates believe in me. I'm just trying to just take it game by game and just do whatever is possible that I can do out there to help my team win basketball games."
'Cats guard Ramon Sessions eventually gave his team its first lead since early in the first half on a lay up with 2:12 left in the contest.
Going down to the wire, Charlotte trailed 91-89 in the game's waning seconds.
However, Sessions made a lay up with 2.8 seconds left that sent the crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena into a frenzy. The game was headed to an extra five-minute session.
"To come back home and get a win like that in front of your fans when you've got the support like you did tonight is always big," Sessions said.
In overtime, Charlotte forward Byron Mullens threw down a dunk for the opening score to give his team a lead it did not relinquish.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Sessions made a combined 4-of-4 three throw attempts down the stretch to help seal the home win.
Kidd-Gilchrist scored 25 points in Saturday's triumph — the most in a game by the No. 2 overall pick so far in his short NBA career. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
"I think rookies have tremendous highs and lows," Dunlap said. "I think everyone that has been watching a lot of our games say that MKG gets a little better. All of a sudden, he has what you would call a breakout game. I think realistic expectations are he can do what he is doing on the boards. He is a very good defender. The third part of his game is indescribable. He just does the intangibles. He passes the ball in closed corners. He gets an extra hand on the ball to keep it alive on the offensive glass. It was just a lot of the little things he did tonight that were noticeable."
The win by Charlotte snaps a 16-game losing streak to Dallas.
Dunlap said his team should expect similar challenges against the tough competition it will face this season.
"We should be able to beat other teams that have had long winning streaks against us," he said. "We expect to beat them the hard way. We have to earn it."