Leading by as many as 24 points, the Charlotte Bobcats held off a second half surge by the Cleveland Cavaliers to come away with a 105-98 victory on Wednesday in the team's 2012-13 season finale.
"Home is somewhere we want to play well," said Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson. "You have to protect your home court, and we did that down the stretch. We figured out late that passing and moving the ball is a really good thing for us. When we move the ball like we did tonight, it's going to be hard for us to be defended."
Kemba Walker led Charlotte (21-61) in the win with 24 points, seven assists and four rebounds. while Josh McRoberts added 20 points and eight rebounds.
The Bobcats close out the second with three-straight wins against Milwaukee, New York and Cleveland — all at home.
"We were in a lot of games toward the end of the season," Walker said. "We fought really hard. We came together as a team. We came out with three big wins. We really wanted to win these games and we did. I think that we can compete with anyone when we want to. We have to get more consistent as a team, competing every night, giving ourselves opportunities to win basketball games.”
Former Duke standout Kyrie Irving paced the Cavs (24-58) with a double-double — 24 points and 10 assists.
“A few costly mistakes and a few easy baskets that they got was basically the game," Irving said. "We came back from down 24 just by pure passion and pure heart, and we just couldn’t close it out.”
Powered by McRoberts' 10 points in the first quarter, the Bobcats led 34-16 after the opening stanza.
However, Cleveland outscored Charlotte 31-19 in the second quarter to pull within six points — 53-47 — by halftime.
In the third quarter, the Bobcats grew their lead to double digits and managed to maintain an advantage throughout before Cleveland would go on yet another run.
The Cavaliers chipped away at their deficit, taking a 77-76 lead by the 9:30 mark of the fourth quarter.
With its lead dwindling, Charlotte managed to get to the free throw line and make 13 of its 16 attempts at the charity stripe.
Walker made nine of those free throws and also sank a pair of 3-pointers during the final quarter of play.
“It was a tough night for me honestly," Walker said. "I was kind of tired. My wind just wasn’t right for some reason. I just tried to push through and stay aggressive and try to will my team to a win.”
Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the final game of his rookie season.
Charlotte finishes the season with its 21st victory — 14 more than all of last season.
By virtue of the Bobcats win and Orlando's 105-93 loss to Miami, Charlotte ends up with the second-worst record in the NBA.
First-year Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap is proud of the development this season of his team, which is one of the most inexperienced teams in all of the NBA.
“The evolution of our young guys, and the fact that we went from seven wins to 21 — we tripled our pleasure," Dunlap said. "It’s not everything, but it’s a start. We’re developing a culture of class in how we play the game and how we act on the bench. You can’t come down the back stretch if there are problems in your locker room, and we didn’t have that.”