CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Bobcats are starting to feel comfortable at home and are enjoying playing the role of spoiler.
Gerald Henderson scored 24 points and the Bobcats dealt a huge blow to Philadelphia’s already slim playoffs hopes Wednesday night, beating the 76ers 88-83 to end their three-game win streak.
Kemba Walker added 17 points, 10 assists and five steals to help Charlotte win for the fifth time in its last six home games.
Philadelphia had a chance to gain another game on Milwaukee — which lost to Minnesota — for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Instead, the loss to the NBA-worst Bobcats leaves the 76ers six games behind the Bucks with only eight to play.
“They were a team that wants to get to the playoffs,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “With the distance between them and Milwaukee (in the standings) that is now a serious problem for Sixers. So they wanted the game bad and they couldn’t get it. So we’re happy about that.”
The biggest reason was Henderson, who had a crucial steal late in the game and scored four points in the final minute to help the Bobcats end a three-game skid. Josh McRoberts added 12 points and 16 rebounds for Charlotte.
Damien Wilkins had 20 points and nine rebounds for the 76ers, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t shake off a poor shooting night even with the game — and perhaps the Sixers’ season — on the line.
He came in as the only player in the league averaging at least 18 points and eight assists, but shot just 2 of 24 from the field with a key miss in the final minute. He finished with five points, his second-lowest output of the season.
“It was one of those nights where the ball would go in and out,” Holiday said. “I think they played really good defense around the rim. I just couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
Walker believes Charlotte’s defense was a big reason why.
“We rotated, we helped, we talked and we were together,” Walker said. “That’s what it’s all about. If a guy gets beat, he expects a teammate to help him. That’s what we did tonight.”
Philadelphia led by 16 early in the second quarter but the Bobcats battled back to take the lead in the third behind the play of Walker and Henderson.
For the 76ers, it was yet another lost opportunity in a season filled with late-game meltdowns.
“We have to finish these games off,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “Although it’s a situation where it looks like we might not make the playoffs, you’ve got to learn to make plays in games like this, whether you’re playing Charlotte or Chicago in Game 6 of the playoffs.”
Collins called his team’s play reckless.
“We play high risk basketball,” Collins said. "(Charlotte) plays at a high tempo. They suckered us and we started playing like that.”
The Sixers seemed poised to make a run late when Wilkins made one of two free throws to give his team an 83-82 lead with 53 seconds left in the game, but Henderson came alive with big plays on back-to-back possessions.
After knocking down a 15-foot jumper in traffic, he stole the ensuing inbound pass from Turner and drove the length of the court to put in an uncontested layup with 30 seconds left, putting Charlotte up by three.
Rather than go for a 3-pointer and try to tie it, Holiday drove to the left side and missed, and the Bobcats grabbed the rebound with 22 seconds left. Walker added two free throws for the final margin.
“I didn’t know I took that many shots until I got in (the locker room),” Holiday said. “I just tried to be aggressive. I know that coaches have told me that for us to win they need me to score. So I was trying to score. I know the coaches have all the faith in me.”
The Bobcats entered the game short-handed with three centers — Brendan Haywood, Byron Mullens and Gana Diop — and guards Ramon Sessions and Jeffery Taylor out with injuries.
With only 10 healthy players, Dunlap was forced to turn to seldom-used Tyrus Thomas and Reggie Williams off the bench more than usual. Williams responded with a season-high 12 points.
NOTES: Henderson has now scored in double figures in 17 straight games for the Bobcats and has topped the 20-point plateau eight times in the past 14 games. ... Turner had 14 points for the 76ers, which shot 35 percent from the field. ... The Bobcats host the Heat on Friday night.