CHARLOTTE Kemba Walker has been so many things this season to the Charlotte Bobcats – leading scorer, record-setter in steals, tops on the team in taking charges and completing three-point plays.
He hasn’t always been a great playmaker for his teammates, and that’s a big part of being a point guard. That changed Monday, and this isn’t just a one-game thing.
Walker had a career-high 13 assists in a 106-95 home victory over the New York Knicks. That’s the fifth time in 11 games he has totaled eight or more assists. He’s finding a balance between scoring and facilitating that hasn’t always been there.
“When Ramon (Sessions) got hurt, maybe he felt more compelled to do more scoring,” coach Mike Dunlap surmised. “We run a lot of pick-and-roll (late), and he’s finding people in the fourth quarter.”
Walker finished with 23 points Tuesday, so he was looking for his own shot, too. He says he always thought he was looking to find teammates. Sometimes people miss open shots or make another pass. So assist games are sometimes a matter of chance.
“There was a time in the season when they really looked for me to score,” Walker said, “so I started to draw (in the defense) and kick” out the ball.
Whatever the source, the Bobcats have shown some growth in ball movement. Thirty-five of their 43 baskets were assisted, a season-high. Power forward Josh McRoberts (10 points, seven rebounds and eight assists) helps with the ball-handling, and shooting guard Gerald Henderson (27 points) is finishing plays.
It didn’t hurt that the Knicks all but shut down the roster after clinching second place in the Eastern Conference with Sunday’s home victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The Knicks sat core players Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. Some of those were long-term injuries. Some – like Smith or ex-Bobcat Felton – were simply acknowledgements these last two regular-season games are meaningless, so rest is the only objective before the weekend playoff series starts against the Boston Celtics.
Dunlap said the Knicks’ roster management didn’t diminish getting to 20 victories.
“We told the guys to play against the game,” not the opponent, Dunlap said. “Be appealing to the eye and show we’re without a doubt getting better.”
This victory pulled the Bobcats into a tie with the Orlando Magic for the league’s worst record at 20-61. So winning the season-closer Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers offers the Bobcats a chance to avoid having the worst record for a second straight season
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