NBA News Wire

Bobcats lock up playoff berth

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CLEVELAND — There was no wild celebration in the Charlotte locker room after the Bobcats wrapped up the franchise’s second postseason berth in history with a 96-94 overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night before 18,179 at Quicken Loans Arena.

“It’s a wonderful feeling because we’ve come a long way,” Bobcats center Al Jefferson said. “It means a lot to us. We reached one goal, and we have a lot more to reach. For us, this is the beginning.”

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving erupted for a career-high 44 points for the Cavs (31-47).

The loss just about extinguished the Cavs’ faint playoff hopes. They are 3 1/2 games behind idle Atlanta in the Eastern Conference playoff race with four to play.

If the Cavs win their remaining games, the Hawks would need to finish 2-5 and the New York Knicks would have to go 2-3 for Cleveland to get into the playoffs.

The Cavs certainly had their chances against the Bobcats, but other than Irving’s offensive explosion, the rest of the team managed just 50 points and shot 29 percent from the field (19 of 65).

“I’d like to always have six or seven guys in double figures,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “We had some good looks. They just didn’t go in.”

As a team, the Cavs shot just 36.5 percent from the floor.

The Cavs trailed 93-91 when Irving misfired on a wide-open 3-point goal with 8.9 seconds left in overtime.

“That was as good a look as I had all night,” Irving said. “It was a crucial miss. As good of a night as I had, I would trade all of that for a win.”

Jefferson, who finished with 24 points, a game-high 15 rebounds and two blocks, missed a free throw — possibly on purpose — with 2.3 seconds remaining in overtime. It was a brilliant move, because the only way they could have lost was on a 3-pointer.

Guard Kemba Walker added 20 points and seven assists, and forward Cody Zeller had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bobcats extended their winning streak over the Cavs to five in a row, including a 4-0 sweep this season.

“They stay with it and make the right fundamental play,” Brown said. “They don’t have guys that fall asleep on weak side. They don’t have guys that stop playing.”

The Bobcats outscored the Cavs 14-12 in overtime.

It was the Cavs’ eighth overtime game this season, which matched 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. Irving tied the score with a 17-foot jumper with 25.9 seconds left.

Irving caught fire in the third quarter when he scored 16 points, including two late 3-pointers.

He finished 5 of 9 from behind the arc and 7 of 8 from the foul line and added seven rebounds and eight assists.

“Kyrie kept us in the game with his shooting,” Brown said.

Shooting guard Dion Waiters added 14 points for the Cavs and power forward Tristan Thompson had a team-high 12 rebounds.

The Bobcats were ecstatic after securing the playoff berth.

“The guys in the locker room are excited,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “It’s a group of guys who are deserving. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re all excited.”

NOTES: Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving is miffed about a recent blog post on The author interviews’s Brian Windhorst, who said Irving’s camp has been telling people 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 C.J. 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 East and one of five in the entire league 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.