WASHINGTON Late Saturday someone asked Charlotte Bobcats forward Byron Mullens if last seasons team could have survived double-overtime.
Mullens smiled upon reflection, saying he cant remember that team getting to overtime. Thats how much the Bobcats have changed. They showed it again during a 108-106 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Beating the 0-11 Wizards is in itself no big deal. But starting the season 7-5 shows this team is deeper, more skilled and more resilient by a long shot than the group that went 7-59 last season.
We have some fight in us now, said Mullens, who scored a season-high 27 points. We wanted this game.
They overcame a lot to win: Three foul-outs (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Ben Gordon). Twenty Washington points off offensive rebounds. A shaky shooting night by point guard Kemba Walker (3-of-17 from the field).
Badly as Walker shot, he made two huge plays late. In danger of traveling, he instinctively threw the ball at the head of a diving Nene, the Wizards best big man. Then, after teammate Ramon Sessions missed a free throw with 13 seconds left in the second overtime, 6-foot-1 Walker squirmed for the offensive rebound, forcing Nene to foul him a second later.
Walker made both free throws for a four-point lead, and the Bobcats would need every point: Wizards rookie Bradley Beal hit a desperate 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to trim the deficit to one. Then Walker made one of two, off a foul by Trevor Ariza, for the final margin.
Along the way others stepped up. Mullens made five of 11 attempts from 3-point range. Seldom-used Reggie Williams, playing because of the foul-outs, made a crucial 3 with 1 minute, 10 seconds left to overcome a two-point deficit.
It was the last time the Bobcats would trail.
I stayed confident, I stayed ready, said Williams, who hadnt played during the previous three games. They had the momentum, and I changed momentum with that shot.
This victory made a little history. This was the quickest an NBA team has matched the previous seasons victory total. The previous mark was the 1973-74 Philadelphia 76ers reaching nine victories in 24 games. That the Bobcats did this in their first 12 was equal parts how bad they were last season and how dramatically theyve improved with some new players and coach Mike Dunlap.
Now the Bobcats move on to road games in Oklahoma City and Atlanta bigger challenges.
This will give us some confidence as a team, Dunlap said of surviving two overtimes. We have a good product good players. But we have to keep proving it.