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Charlotte holds on to beat New Orleans 73-71

Biyombo’s block preserves victory

By Rick Bonnell
rbonnell@charlotteobserver.com

NEW ORLEANS - As New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams described, “Trevor (Ariza) was by himself for a second…’’

And then he wasn’t. Then the octopus-like arms of rookie Bismack Biyombo reached out, snuffed Ariza’s dunk attempt, and preserved a 73-71 victory for the Charlotte Bobcats.

This is why the Bobcats traded up to draft Biyombo seventh overall in June: Because when you put a lid on the basket the way Biyombo did, with the game on the line, it’s something special.

The Bobcats (6-34) had led this one by 13 with 7 minutes, 44 seconds left, only to go on life-support offensively the rest of the game. The sole score after that came with just over two minutes left, when forward Boris Diaw (yes, he played for the first time in five games), hit a 5-foot jump hook.

The Hornets (10-32) had two chances to tie it in the last 32 seconds. But New Orleans point guard Jarrett Jack was called on a blatant push-off, as he drove the lane, and then Biyombo did his thing at the end.

The Hornets had the ball with 10.8 seconds left. With a foul to give before the penalty, Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson (15 points on 6-of-11 shooting) fouled Ariza to force a new in-bounds play with 5.2 seconds.

In the ensuing timeout the Bobcats were told to switch everything defensively. But there was a mix-up between Henderson and Derrick Brown, allowing Ariza a free lane with the ball straight to the rim.

Enter Biyombo, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

“I thought, ‘(At worst) we’re going to overtime. I’ve got to go for the block,’’ Biyombo recalled. “I said, ‘I am going to block that shot. Just jump straight (to avoid a foul)…And I did.’’

The block was so clean it took the energy out of the ball, and it bounced quietly into the Bobcats’ hands for a rare victory.

The Bobcats pulled this one off with only 10 minutes and two points from leading scorer Corey Maggette. He wrenched his back while going for a steal. Maggette says he should recover quickly, but he couldn’t continue Monday.

“I felt something bad,’’ Maggette said. “And then (assistant coach) Stephen Silas said, ‘Corey, you aren’t looking so good.’ ’’

Biyombo looked remarkably good, making a play with huge risk/reward balance.

“I can’t take that away from him,’’ coach Paul Silas said of his rookie. “I don’t want him to back down, to be stared down. That’s what makes him him.’’

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