CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBS / AP) — Rookie Kemba Walker made the most of his first NBA start, scoring a career-high 23 points to lift the Charlotte Bobcats to a 112-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
With the Bobcats mired in a six-game losing streak, coach Paul Silas benched veteran Boris Diaw, saying he wanted to see a different look with a smaller lineup. Diaw, who had started a franchise-record 235 straight games, had scored just three points in the last two games and had drawn criticism from Silas.
“We weren’t playing with that much energy and we weren’t getting that much out of Boris, to tell you the truth,” Silas said.
Walker provided instant energy.
He scored 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting in the first quarter as the Bobcats built a 38-25 lead. Walker found all sorts of ways to score early on, hitting a pair of 3-pointers, a fast-break layup and a nifty reverse layup. He used his ability to get to the basket to draw three fouls and drained all five free throws.
The 38 points were the most by the Bobcats in a quarter this season.
David Lee had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the first half and finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Dorell Wright and Nate Robinson each added 12 points for the Warriors, who fell to 3-8.
The Bobcats led by as many as 22, but the Warriors cut the lead to six late in the fourth quarter.
However, Walker hit a jumper to set a new career high and then drove the lane and drew a foul to put the Bobcats back up by double digits and seal their third win of the season.
Walker seemed to bring out the best in everyone. Gerald Henderson, playing in his new role as a small forward, snapped out of a mini-slump with a season-high 26 points. Center Byron Mullens scored 20 points and had seven rebounds, marking the ninth time in 11 games he’s scored in double digits.
Before the game, Silas was a little worried about a size disadvantage by trotting out the combination of the 6-foot-1 Walker and 6-foot D.J. Augustin, but it didn’t turn out to be a huge factor. The Warriors only outrebounded the Bobcats by three in the first half as the Bobcats more than made up for it on offense, shooting 56 percent.
The Bobcats were much more aggressive with Walker in the starting lineup, getting to the free throw line 38 times and converting 29.
Walker’s move caused nearly wholesale changes to the Bobcats’ starting lineup, with Augustin moving to shooting guard and Henderson to small forward. Tyrus Thomas moved from the No. 3 spot to Diaw’s spot at power forward.
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