WASHINGTON — Having played his entire career with the Charlotte Bobcats, Kemba Walker knows about terrible. The point guard used that description upon learning he made the lone field goal for either team in Wednesday’s overtime session against the Washington Wizards.
Terrible is not how anyone describes the surging Bobcats anymore.
Center Al Jefferson had 20 points and 18 rebounds and Walker scored five of his 17 points in overtime as the Bobcats defeated the Wizards 94-88 for their fifth straight win.
Guard Gary Neal scored 16 points for the Bobcats (40-38), who pulled even with the Wizards (40-38) for sixth place in the Eastern Conference despite guard John Wall’s triple-double. Charlotte blew a 20-point lead and needed Jefferson’s layup with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Charlotte clinched the season series 3-1, giving the Bobcats the playoff head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington. Last season, only the Orlando Magic finished below the Bobcats’ 21-61 record.
“To go from basically the worst team to the sixth seed, I mean, it shows a lot,” Walker said of Charlotte’s improvement.
Tied at 87-87 entering the extra period, neither team scored until Walker sank a 3-pointer with 2:59 left. He tacked on two free throws and finished the game with 12 assists.
Upon learning of his singular shooting act, Walker queried, “That was the only field goal? Oh, wow. That’s terrible. …I saw the shot clock was running down. I had to get it up. I just shot it with confidence and it was able to go.”
Center Marcin Gortat made 13 of 18 field goal attempts for 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Wizards.
Wall had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. His free throw accounted for Washington’s only point in overtime as the Wizards went 0-for-8 from the field.
If the standings remain unchanged, the Wizards would play the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
“Honestly, I don’t care about the standings,” said Gortat following Washington’s third loss in five games. “End of the day, we have to play. The way we play right now, we’re not going to beat anybody, including [last-place] Milwaukee.”
Both teams have four games remaining in the regular season with an equal split of home and away matchups.
Washington trailed by 50-30 in the second quarter and did not take its first lead until 5:28 remained in the fourth. Guard Bradley Beal’s jumper put the Wizards up 78-77 and Gortat’s layup with 9.9 seconds gave Washington an 87-85 lead.
Walker deftly fed Jefferson for a game-tying layup with 3.2 seconds remaining and prevented Wall from attempting a shot in the final seconds of regulation.
Washington finished 1-of-15 overall from beyond the 3-point arc. After missing practice time this week with the flu, forward Trevor Ariza did not score, missing all six of his shots from the field.
Forward Trevor Booker had 16 points and a season-high five blocks for the Wizards. Forward Nene had 10 points in 17 minutes after missing the previous 21 games with a sprained left MCL.
The Wizards might have survived all the clanking if not for their brutal start.
Washington lost its previous game by 18 points at home to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday after falling behind by double digits in the first quarter. The pattern continued against the Bobcats. Charlotte shot 59 percent from the field in the first quarter for a 32-18 lead. Guard Gerald
Henderson’s 3-pointer made it 50-30 with 5:22 remaining in the second period.
“The whole first half was a total disappointment,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “To have no more energy or drive or enthusiasm than we showed in that first half, disappointing.”
The Wizards pulled within 54-41 at halftime and then scored the first eight points of the third quarter. Wall’s reverse layup capped the 25-6 run as Washington trailed 56-55 before the crowd of 17,784.
Charlotte missed 17 of 19 shots and committed six turnovers in that nearly 11-minute span.
More misses came late and in overtime, but Walker made sure the Bobcats didn’t miss them all.
“In those last situations, my whole team was kind of depending on me,” Walker said. “It’s a very encouraging feeling. I just try my best to make the best possible play.”
NOTES: Charlotte improved to 5-3 in overtime. Washington fell to 4-8…. F Josh McRoberts, who missed the previous three games with a left ankle sprain, had 12 points for the Bobcats. …Washington went 12-9 with F
Nene sidelined with a knee injury. He suffered a sprained left MCL on Feb. 23 at Cleveland. …Charlotte entered Wednesday’s game averaging the fewest
turnovers in the NBA and ranked fifth in scoring defense after finishing 29th last season. …The Bobcats play the Celtics in Boston on Friday, the same day Washington visits the Orlando Magic.
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