CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The agony is over for Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Kemba Walker scored a career-high 30 points in Mike Dunlap's coaching debut and the Bobcats snapped a 23-game losing streak with a 90-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
The Bobcats lost their final 23 games last season to finish 7-59, the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history prompting Jordan, the team's owner, to proclaim the franchise had "hit rock bottom."
Now they're looking to start a different kind of streak.
"It was something that was in the back of all of our heads," Walker said. "We didn't want that streak to keep on with us, so to get it over with now was extremely important. But now that it's over we don't ever want to get to that point again."
The Bobcats, playing with a newfound aggressiveness on defense under Dunlap — they forced 19 turnovers — started the year strong against a Pacers team that won 19 of 33 road games last season.
"They look like a different team out there," said guard D.J. Augustin, who joined the Pacers this offseason as a free agent after four seasons with the Bobcats.
"They came at us with a full court trap and it kind of threw us off our game. They were very intense."
Dunlap has been preaching defense throughout the preseason and hammering his players with 3- to 4-hour practice sessions to build their conditioning.
It seemed to pay off.
"Guys are really, really buying in and that's all it takes," Walker said. "It's about sacrifice. It's about buying into what your leader is preaching. It showed tonight. We made some huge stops at the end."
It was a strange finish as the teams combined to score just two points in the game's final 2:37. Indiana had several chances but turnovers and missed shots proved to be their undoing.
Augustin tried to bury his old team with an 18-foot jumper from the wing as time expired but it bounced away.
"I had a good look at it, but it just didn't go down," Augustin said.
Said Dunlap: "The most important thing was to kill the elephant and that elephant was that losing streak. We had to get that off of everybody's back. It's just one of those marks you want to clean off the board."
Walker was the catalyst all game for the Bobcats, hitting 9 of his first 13 shots — most of those coming on drives to the lane where the 6-foot-1 point guard somehow managed to get his shots above much taller defenders and get them with a soft touch high off the glass.
When asked how he made some of those shots, Walker laughed and said, "I don't know.