CHARLOTTE, N.C.— Charlie Villanueva felt like the weight of the world was on the Detroit Pistons as they flew into Charlotte, N.C., for Saturday night’s game.
A 10-game losing streak will do that to an NBA team.
Villanueva made sure the Pistons could breathe a sigh of relief Saturday night, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter — including a go-ahead driving layup with 15 seconds left — to help Detroit defeat the Charlotte Bobcats 92-91 to avoid matching its longest losing streak in three years.
“It felt really good to get a win after that losing streak we were on,” Villanueva said in a jovial Pistons locker room. “We kind of got that monkey off our back. You could see how excited everyone was just to get that win.”
Villanueva hit three 3-pointers in the final period, Jason Maxiell added 14 points and reserve Rodney Stuckey had 13 points and eight assists for the Pistons.
Kemba Walker had 25 points and Bismack Biyombo had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bobcats, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Gerald Henderson who came in averaging 22.7 points per game over his past seven, finished with 15 points.
The NBA-worst Bobcats had the ball and a chance to win the game with 14 seconds left but couldn’t convert.
The Bobcats led by three coming into fourth quarter, but every time they tried to pull away it seemed Villanueva was there to answer with a long 3-pointer.
The seven-year veteran finally put the Pistons in front at 85-84 on 3-pointer with just over two minutes to play and the teams traded the lead after that.
With the Pistons trailing by one, Villanueva made a backdoor cut and scored on a two-handed jam to give his team a 90-89 lead.
Walker answered with a pair of foul shots at the end other, but Villanueva then made the play of the game. After missing a 3-pointer, Villanueva corralled the rebound and drove the lane to give Detroit a 92-91 lead.
“I was just reading what the defense was giving me,” Villanueva said. “They were trying to take the 3-pointer away so I was just driving the basketball. I saw the lane open.”
The Bobcats called a timeout but couldn’t get an open look off an inbound play.
Walker frantically drove with 4 seconds left and put up an off-balance shot that hit the rim. Josh McRoberts grabbed the loose ball and tried to put in a reverse that didn’t drop.
“We grinded and gutted it out,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “When you’ve lost 10 games you need somebody to give you a spark. And Charlie did that in the fourth quarter. It’s nice to get off the schneid. Now we want to continue every night and finish off the season in a professional, competitive way.”
Frank was pleased that the Pistons had 31 assists on 36 field goals.
Detroit entered the game having lost its last 10 games by an average margin of 17.2 points per game. But they jumped out to a 9-0 lead behind Brandon Knight, who returned after missing four games with a sprained ankle.
However, they surrendered the momentum almost immediately as the Bobcats answered with a 9-0 run of their own and went on to lead most of the game.
But Charlotte had no answer for Villanueva down the stretch.
“He’s tough because he can really shoot the 3,” Henderson said of Villanueva. “It’s crazy to think you’ll lose track of him. But when you’re coming back in transition, he just finds his way to the 3-point line.
“Even in the half court, he finds ways to score the ball at the basket. You’re always taught to come back in the paint and branch out. He knows that and he kind of moseys back to the line and they find him. That’s unusual because big men usually migrate to the paint.”
After scoring 117 points against Washington and 109 against Toronto, the Bobcats only managed 92, one below their season average.
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