The Pelican Blog

Charlotte guard Kemba Walker tries to dribble past New Orleans defender Greg Stiemsma during Friday's game postgame: Bobcats 90, Pelicans 87

By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

CHARLOTTE – It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of the game and won’t be making any network’s highlights show anytime soon, but sometimes free throws make the difference between winning and losing in the NBA. In more ways than one, that was the case Friday, when Charlotte staved off a late New Orleans comeback to register a narrow home victory.

In pursuit of an Eastern Conference playoff berth after several extremely frustrating seasons, the Bobcats used a 36-11 overall advantage in attempts from the foul line to beat the Pelicans. During a tense final minute of play, Charlotte (26-30) made just enough free throws to survive a New Orleans (23-31) fourth-quarter comeback. The Bobcats sealed the win just before the buzzer, by stripping the ball away from Brian Roberts near the halfcourt line as Roberts tried to get in position to fire a three-point attempt.

Prior to the game-winning defensive play, Charlotte scored each of its final six points on free throws. In just the last 24 seconds alone, guard Kemba Walker went 5-for-8 at the charity stripe. Walker followed up three critical misses by sinking two straight with 4.0 seconds left, giving the hosts their final winning margin of 90-87.

With Charlotte leading 86-84, New Orleans had a chance to tie with 11 seconds to go, but Pelicans guard Eric Gordon split two free throws, missing the latter try. Walker marched to the other end and hit two tosses, making it 88-85 at 8.9 seconds. Leading by three and realizing that the Pelicans had no timeouts left, the Bobcats grabbed Roberts before he could shoot a three-pointer at 5.0. One of the NBA’s premier foul shooters, Roberts drained both free throws to cut it to 88-87. He looked over to the bench prior to the second free throw to see if the Pelicans wanted him to miss on purpose and try to grab the offensive rebound, but they opted to have Roberts make it.

Earlier in the game Friday, the Pelicans’ lack of trips to the foul line proved costly on a night when they struggled to generate offense. New Orleans only had two free-throw attempts prior to the final 12 minutes and scored just 17 and 15 points in the first and second quarters, respectively. The result was a 43-32 halftime deficit.

“The first half was a tough one for us,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “We couldn’t score the ball and defensively we executed a poor game plan. In the second half we executed, which allowed us to score the ball. Defensively, our focus was poor in the first half, but in the second half we picked it up and gave ourselves a chance.”

The visitors still were kept at arm’s length entering the fourth quarter, down 68-59. Al Jefferson (33 points, 10 rebounds) was a force in the paint for the Bobcats, scoring 29 points in the first three quarters, though his 33-point outing required him to attempt a whopping 30 shots from the field.

The Pelicans produced 27 points in the third quarter and 28 more in the fourth, with Roberts leading the final-stanza surge by tallying 11 points. Six other Pelicans had at least one basket in the last 12 minutes.

“Shots weren’t falling for us, it was difficult,” Roberts said of the first half. “We just tried to stay in it defensively. When the offense isn’t clicking, we have to rely on defense. Luckily we did not have too big of a margin going into halftime.  Then in the second half we got things rolling, but we just came up a little short. We had a few chances to win the game. They missed a couple free throws and gave us the chances, but we just couldn’t get over that hump. We still had chance at the end to make a shot, but just couldn’t do it.”