CLEVELAND — Despite a career-high 44 points by All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-94 in overtime on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Bobcats (39-38) wrapped up a playoff spot with the victory, the second in franchise history. The other came in 2009-2010.
Charlotte guard Kemba Walker split two free throws with 11.6 seconds left, leaving the score 93-91.
Irving misfired on a wide-open 3-pointer with about seven seconds left in overtime. That led to two free throws by Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson for a four-point cushion.
Cavs center Spencer Hawes knocked down a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds remaining.
Center Al Jefferson paced the Bobcats with 24 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. His free throw with 2.3 seconds left gave the Bobcats a two-point final margin.
Walker added 20 points and seven assists.
The Bobcats outscored the Cavs 14-12 in overtime.
The loss just about extinguished Cavs’ playoff hopes. They dropped to 31-47 with the loss, 3 1/2 games behind idle Atlanta (33-42) with four to play. It was the Cavs’ eighth overtime game this season, a franchise record. They are 5-3 in those games. The Bobcats are now 4-3 in OT.
The teams were tied at 82 after regulation. Walker missed a 3-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer.
Irving knotted the score at 82 on a 17-foot jumper with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Irving caught fire in the third quarter when he scored 16 points, including two late 3-pointers.
Charlotte extended its winning streak over the Cavs to five, including a 4-0 sweep this season.
Bobcats forward Cody Zeller had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Henderson finished with 15 points.
Shooting guard Dion Waiters added 14 points for the Cavs. Power forward Tristan Thompson had a team-high 12 rebounds.
Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field.
Irving drained back-to-back 3-pointers to hand the Cavs a 61-58 lead with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
The Cavs outscored the Bobcats 33-22 in the third quarter to take a 66-62 advantage.
Charlotte closed the first half on an 11-2 run. That fueled a 40-33 lead at halftime.
The Cavs managed just 12 points in the second quarter. They shot just 29.5 percent from the field in the first half.
Jefferson and Walker each had nine points in the first half.
Irving connected on 5 of 6 shots from the field en route to 13 points and two assists in the first quarter when the Cavs opened up a 21-17 lead.
NOTES: Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving is miffed about a recent blog post on ESPN.com. The author interviews ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, who said Irving’s camp has been telling people that he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland. Irving responded with a series of tweets on Friday night. He discussed it on Saturday. “It was (in response to) the barrage and attack I saw,” he said. “I’ve been getting it all season. I don’t deserve it. At a certain point, it’s too much.” … Cavs coach Mike Brown has decided to keep Irving and Dion Waiters in the same starting backcourt. “They will start the rest of the season,” he said. … Cavs F Anthony Bennett has not returned from Toronto, where he was dealing with a personal matter. Cavs G/F CJ Miles remains out of the lineup with a sprained left ankle. … The Bobcats average the fewest turnovers in the NBA at 12.3 per game. … Bobcats C Al Jefferson is only player in the Eastern Conference and one of five in the NBA averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. … Bobcats F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (back bruise) was cleared to play on Saturday. F Josh McRoberts missed his third consecutive game with a sprained ankle.
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