CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kemba Walker outdueled Kyrie Irving and the Charlotte Bobcats earned their first win of the season.
Walker won the battle of small, but speedy point guards, scoring 23 points and handing out seven assists to help the Bobcats beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-84 on Friday night in their home opener.
Walker hit a 3-pointer over Irving with 58 seconds left to break a tie.
The Cavaliers had two chances to tie, but Josh McRoberts came up with a steal and Jarrett Jack had an air-ball on a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.
Gerald Henderson added two free throws in the final 11 seconds to make it a two-possession game and help seal the win.
Bismack Biyombo, who filled in for injured center Al Jefferson, came up big for Charlotte scoring 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds.
CJ Miles had 22 points, and Tristan Thompson added 21 for the Cavaliers.
Irving had 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting, but was held to one point in the fourth quarter. He attempted only three shots in the fourth and missed them all.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 15 points and six rebounds for the Bobcats. Henderson had 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting.
The Bobcats led throughout the first half and was up 54-49 behind 12 points from Walker and eight apiece from rookie Cody Zeller and reserve Ramon Sessions.
Zeller, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, outplayed No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett in his first game in front of the home crowd.
The 7-footer showed terrific athleticism getting up and down the court and knocked down two mid-range jumpers while finishing with nine points and five rebounds.
Bennett failed to score in 12 minutes and had four fouls.
Zeller got a chance to guard his older brother Tyler — and even deflected one of his shots.
The Bobcats played without Jefferson, their top free agent acquisition this offseason. The 6-10 center re-aggravated his ankle in Charlotte's loss at Houston on Wednesday night.
Coach Steve Clifford said Jefferson will be reevaluated over the weekend.
"It's significant," Clifford said of having to play without Jefferson. "He's our best offensive player. I don't want to go crazy, but he's of the two or three best low post scorers in the league."
Jefferson's absence meant the Bobcats had to change their style of play using more pick and rolls instead of pounding the ball into the low post.
NOTES: Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera took in the game from courtside. ... Walker has scored in double digits in 26 of his last 27 games dating to last season. ... The Bobcats have won their last four home games dating to last season.
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