Bobcats hold off Kings to win fifth straight
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Larry Brown is an NBA junkie, so when he saw Tyreke Evans getting on a roll late in the third quarter he knew his Charlotte Bobcats could be in trouble, no matter how big their lead was.
Brown was right. It took some big plays by Raymond Felton and some fortunate bounces late to prevent another stunning Sacramento Kings comeback in the Bobcats’ 105-103 victory on Monday.
It was Charlotte’s fifth straight win and eighth in a row at home. The Bobcats (20-19) are above .500 at the latest point in franchise history and moved into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with idle Toronto and Miami.
But this one almost slipped away.
Less than a month after Sacramento rallied from 35 points down to win in Chicago, the Kings cut a 24-point third-quarter deficit to one behind their sensational rookie Evans, who scored a career-high 34 points.
“Same kind of game. Chicago thought they had the game won and stopped guarding, starting taking bad shots,” Brown said. “They just got back in the game and won it. We just, fortunately, made enough plays down the stretch to get a win.”
Gerald Wallace shook off an ankle injury to score 28 points and Felton finished a rebound shy of a triple-double for the Bobcats, who led 82-58 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
Evans scored 14 points in the fourth and added seven assists, but the Kings lost their fourth straight.
“I don’t know how you could ask anything more from Tyreke,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “Every minute he was out there he was extremely dominant.”
Evans’ fadeaway with 4:51 left completed a 32-9 run and got the Kings within 91-90. After Wallace returned after twisting his left ankle earlier in the fourth quarter, Charlotte built the lead to five before Evans’ three-point play cut it to 100-98.
The Kings then missed three straight shots that would’ve tied the game before Felton’s runner put the Bobcats ahead 102-98 with 1:01 left.
Evans scored again in traffic, but Felton hit two free throws with 20.7 seconds left. After Sacramento’s Beno Udrih made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one, Charlotte’s Flip Murray was fouled with 1 second left.
He hit the first shot, missed the second and teammate Boris Diaw grabbed the rebound to preserve the victory.
Felton had 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Stephen Jackson was held to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting amid foul trouble. The latest Charlotte was above .500 previously in its six seasons was 6-5 in 2007-08.
“I think we kind of took for granted the lead that we had and started taking bad shots,” said Wallace, who received treatment for more than 30 minutes after the game. “They attacked us in the second half the way we attacked them in the first half.”
Wallace, selected earlier Monday to compete in the NBA slam dunk competition during All-Star weekend, warmed up for it with a windmill dunk to close the first half as Charlotte took a 66-47 lead.
Wallace hit 13 of 15 free throws and was dominating the lifeless Kings until the momentum switched late in the third quarter and the speedy Evans took over.
The NBA’s top scoring rookie hit 13 of 20 shots and eight of 11 free throws. But Kevin Martin was held to nine points on 3-of-9 shooting in his third game back from injury as Sacramento lost for the 11th time in 13 games.
“I had to get those points just to bring us back,” Evans said. “I wasn’t looking forward to going out there and getting however many points I had. I was going out there to get a win. We have to keep working hard and try to find a way to get wins.”
Charlotte’s Bob Johnson, the first black majority owner of a major professional sports team, has always requested a home game on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But despite the recent stretch of good play, there were thousands of empty seats as Charlotte improved to 17-4 at home.
NOTES: Wallace last competed in the dunk competition in 2002, losing in the final to Jason Richardson. It didn’t make it must-see TV for him. “The last one I watched was the one with Vince Carter (in 2000),” Wallace said. … Kings F and former Bobcats first-round pick Sean May was inactive for the third straight game. He last played Dec. 12. “It’s tough and it’s a challenge, but the one thing I can say is I’m finally healthy,” he said. … May was asked about his one year playing under Brown: “He’s a great coach, but we just didn’t mesh well.” … A smoky charbroiler on the concourse set off the fire alarm about 2 hours before tip-off.