CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap talked throughout the offseason about changing the culture in the organization and building a winning atmosphere in Charlotte.
Apparently his players were listening.
Reserve Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and the Bobcats beat the winless Washington Wizards 92-76 Tuesday night to win back-to-back games for the first time since last December and even their record at 3-3.
“Any time in this league when you can get any type of win streak it is good,” Sessions said. “Definitely for a young team like us trying to build things, I think that’s a big plus. You know it’s one of those games where you sit in the locker room (before the game) and you say, ‘Hey, we should go out there and get this one,” and that’s what good teams do. That just shows you the progress that we’re making.”
Said Dunlap: “That is just the NBA game. Players gain confidence with victories.”
With Ben Gordon a late scratch due to a family emergency, Sessions picked up the slack and provided a much-needed boost off the bench for the Bobcats.
Coming off a career-high 25 points against Dallas on Saturday night, rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was strong again, chipping in with 15 points and eight rebounds before leaving in the fourth quarter to ice down a sore back. He said afterward he got hit in the back, but added “I’m fine.”
Kemba Walker battled inconsistent shooting and finished with 17 points for the Bobcats.
It marked the first time the Bobcats have won two straight since taking the final game of the 2010-11 season and the first of last season.
The victory was especially sweet for Walker, who went through an entire rookie season without winning back-to-back games.
“You know, to get this win was huge and it gives us momentum, gives us confidence going into that game tomorrow against a good Minnesota team,” Walker said.
Trevor Ariza scored 19 points for the Wizards, who fell to 0-6. He was the only Washington player to finish in double digits in scoring.
The Bobcats (3-3) limited the Wizards to 29.8-percent shooting and outscored them 46-24 in the paint.
Most of those came on drives to the hole by Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Sessions, who were a combined 15 of 18 from foul line.
“Coach Dunlap emphasized getting to the rim and getting foul shots,” Sessions said. “You know we try to do that. At times it may not look like it but that’s our game, getting to the rim and shooting threes.”
Wizards coach Randy Wittman said his team lacked aggressiveness on defense, particularly in the paint, but attributed that to the team’s apathetic play on the offensive end of the floor.
“When you stand around and watch a guy dribble and dribble and dribble and take a bad shot, it takes away that affect (on defense),” Wittman said.
Rookie Bradley Beal said he felt like the Wizards “gave up” down the stretch.
“We can’t lose focus and today we weren’t focused,” said Beal, who was 1 of 11 shooting from the floor. “We came in lackadaisical, like we were 5-0 instead of 0-5. We didn’t come in with the edge that we usually do.”
Washington, still playing without John Wall and Nene, could never get closer than seven points in the second half after trailing by 13 at halftime. The Wizards connected on just 5 of 31 3-point attempts and had no flow whatsoever on offense.
The Bobcats took a 52-39 lead into halftime after outscoring the Wizards 30-12 in the paint.
Kidd-Gilchrist picked up where he left off Saturday night, driving aggressively to the hole in the early going. The No. 2 pick in the draft had 12 points at halftime on 5-of-8 shooting to go with five rebounds. Sessions had 11 points at the break.
Charlotte’s aggressive defense gave the Wizards fits. Washington turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 19 Bobcats points.
Brendan Haywood had a solid eight points and 11 rebounds, while reserve Tyrus Thomas chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds for the Bobcats.
Charlotte won just seven games last season and finished with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history. But this year’s team is playing with hustle and heart and seems to have gained more confidence after beating Dallas on Saturday night to snap a 16-game losing streak against the Mavericks.
Notes: It took the Bobcats 13 games last season to win three games. Once they won their third game in 2011-12 they went on to lose 16 straight. … Washington’s starters were 15 of 43 shooting from the field.
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