CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Twice the Wolves knocked the ball away; twice they almost got the stop that would have stopped the bleeding. But they didn't. Ultimately, the Wolves put themselves in position to stop a recent losing streak, to head into a big homestand with a modicum of confidence in their backpacks. But they couldn't.
Here is what happens when things are going badly: You play good defense, you deflect the ball twice in the span of a few seconds, you have the opponent scrambling, up against the shot clock as the game winds down. And then Gerald Henderson hits a twisting, 25-foot three-pointer over Andrei Kirilenko with 1.1 seconds left on the shot clock and 4.6 seconds left in the game to give the Bobcats a 102-101 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena on Saturday night.
That's a body blow that will leave a mark. The fact that J.J. Barea, with the ball, appeared to be fouled by Kemba Walker as time ran out is only the insult that goes with the injury.
"It was one of those chaotic plays," guard Luke Ridnour said of Henderson's trey. "A lucky shot. A lucky play. But he hit it, so there's not much you can do about it."
The Wolves (17-24) lost for the fourth consecutive time and for the ninth time in 10 games. So they go home from this two-game trip having lost to the two teams with the Eastern Conference's worst records. Charlotte broke a three-game losing streak with its first home victory in 17 tries.
This despite a very nice start that saw the Wolves -- who got 22 points from Ridnour, 19 from Barea and double-figure scoring from four others, including Ricky Rubio -- build leads of 18 points in the first quarter and 16 in the second.
"We came out with a lot of energy, like I knew we'd respond after the disappointing loss [Friday]," acting head coach Terry Porter said. "Our guys fought hard. And, towards the end, we just didn't make shots."
The Wolves had a 13-point lead with 7:10 left in the third quarter on Ridnour's 7-foot raindrop. But then Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap went small and Charlotte started using the pick-and-roll to come back. Over the next 11 minutes and 53 seconds, the Bobcats went on a 37-16 run led by Henderson, Walker, Ben Gordon (and Ramon Sessions to take a 91-83 lead with 7:17 left.
To the Wolves' credit, they came back. Ridnour had the first five points in a 10-2 run that tied the score with 4:37 left. The game went back and forth until Rubio drove the baseline to score on a reverse with 29.2 seconds left for a 101-99 Wolves lead.
And then? A nightmare. The Wolves had a very good defensive possession, with Charlotte almost losing the ball twice, the second time when the ball went off Barea's foot past midcourt. But Walker tracked it down and got it to Henderson, who hit the miracle.
And, at the other end? Out of timeouts, the Wolves in-bounded to Barea, who dribbled into the lane but couldn't get either a shot or a foul.
"No question," he said, when asked if he was fouled. "I was trying to get the ball to the rim, and I couldn't do that. I fell to the ground. It's a tough way to go down."
Yes it is.
"That's a tough one to swallow right there," said Rubio, who had 14 points, eight assists and five steals. "We have to stop this losing, and that was a good chance to do it."