Down 19 points and giving up nearly 40 points in the first quarter, the chances of the Charlotte Bobcats winning Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic looked bleak.
However, the 'Cats powered back behind 34 points each from Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson to defeat the Magic 114-108 in a match-up featuring two NBA teams with the worst records.
“I saw a lot of heart, especially this time of the year when you have no shot at the playoffs," said Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap. "Our whole theme has been to prove and to also let our fans and everyone know that we’re still fully engaged.”
Trailing 39-20 after the first quarter, Charlotte (17-54) proceeded to outscore Orlando (18-54) in each of the final three quarters, including 31-19 in the second, 32-24 in the third and 31-26 in the fourth.
A 17-4 run by the Bobcats to start the second quarter helped carry the team back into the game.
'Cats center Bismack Biyombo, who was held scoreless in the opening stanza, scored seven of those points during the early second quarter run.
The lead for Orlando (18-54) was just seven points, 58-51, by halftime.
Walker and Henderson both turned up their play in the second half, helping spark the Bobcats back into the lead.
The duo combined for 50 points in the second half, including 27 points in the third quarter (16 from Walker, 11 from Henderson) and 23 in the fourth quarter (15 from Henderson, eight from Walker).
It was the 13th consecutive game that Henderson had reached double figures and his second 30-point game since setting his career high in points on March 12 against Boston (35).
“I’m trying to be aggressive, but I am trying to do it within our team concept," Henderson said. "I think our team is better when Kemba and I are being aggressive, preferably getting to the basket because teams are going to collapse on us. We feel like we can bring in a lot of attention. Whenever we’re aggressive, putting our head down and trying to get into the lane, we’re able to get our scores or create an opportunity for a teammate.”
Tied for a majority of the fourth quarter, Charlotte scored eight of the final 10 points in Wednesday's game, including four points by Walker and two each from Henderson, Biyombo and Josh McRoberts.
“We just made shots," Walker said. "Gerald Henderson made some big shots. Ben made some good plays. I made some good plays. We just kept our heads and stayed together. We were able to get a big win.”
McRoberts' alley pop slam dunk from Ben Gordon with 17 seconds sent the home fans into a frenzy and helped seal Charlotte's come-from-behind victory.
The Bobcats start a three-game Eastern Conference road trip on Friday with games against New York (44-26), Philadelphia (28-43) and Milwaukee (34-36).
Charlotte returns home Wednesday for another game against the 76ers before hosting defending NBA champion Miami (56-15) next Friday.
Walker said his team's mindset for the final 11 games of the season is simple.
“We want to finish out the season strong and get some confidence so we know what we can do for next season," he said. "We want to start building that. It starts now for us.”