Neal showed just how valuable he can be with his best performance
yet in the Bobcats' 105-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday
He hit his first seven shots, including three 3-pointers, and
finished with 19 points in 31 minutes. Beyond that, he was on the
floor at the end of the game and made several big plays down the
Bobcats center Al Jefferson had his customary big night with 26
points and 13 rebounds, and guard Kemba Walker finished with 24
points and seven assists, but the play of Neal created the biggest
"He provides a big lift," Jefferson said of Neal. "We need some more
scoring on the second unit. If he can hit 3s like that, it'll open
up the paint for me and for guys who are attacking. It just does so
many things for us. Plus, Gary's one of those guys who can make a
play for himself, and that's something we need, too, especially on
the second unit."
The Bobcats led by as many as 12 in the first half and 14 in the
second half, but they had to hold on late. The Nuggets got within
five in the final minute.
Charlotte emerged with its seventh consecutive win at home, matching
a franchise record set by the 2009-10 team. The Bobcats (30-34) are
firmly in the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Neal, a 6-foot-4 guard in his fourth season, came to Charlotte along
with guard Luke Ridnour in a trade that sent guard Ramon Sessions
and forward Jeff Adrien to Milwaukee. He came into the game
averaging 10.7 in six games for the Bobcats, with a high of 15
against the San Antonio Spurs.
"It was huge to get a win at home and protect our home court,
especially with the way the standings are," Neal said. "I felt good.
I had a good shoot-around, I had a good individual workout before
the game, and I was able to hit my first couple. When you make your
first couple and get in that groove and keep taking good shots, the
ball will go in the basket."
Neal knows his role in Charlotte, and he is happy to be part of a
"Since Day One, the locker room was open to us," Neal said. "I like
Coach Cliff (Steve Clifford); he's direct and detailed. So it's been
a smooth transition for me. I want to be one of those guys that's
always working hard and one of those guys that my teammates can
always rely on."
Jefferson scored 16 of his points in the first half before slowing
down in the fourth quarter. Walker shot just 6-for-15 from the
field, but he was 12-for-12 from the line. Neal finished 7-for-9
from the field.
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The Bobcats also got 15 points from forward Josh McRoberts.
"It was an important win," Clifford said. "(The Nuggets) are
difficult to guard, especially when they downsize, so I was happy
with our defensive effort until there at the end. It wasn't our best
game. There were a lot of mistakes in the fourth quarter, but it was
an important win for our team."
The Nuggets (27-36) lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
Denver guard Ty Lawson finished with 24 points, but he scored only
two in the first half when the Bobcats forged their lead. The
Nuggets also got 16 points from guard Aaron Brooks, 15 points and
nine rebounds from forward Kenneth Faried, and 11 points from center
"We didn't seem to get engaged in the game until the end when we
were trying to scramble and come back," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw
said. "The game was in the balance all night long, and we couldn't
seem to get over the hump. They made the plays that they needed to
make down the stretch, and we didn't."
NOTES: The win gave the Bobcats a season sweep of the Nuggets.
Charlotte also won 101-98 in Denver on Jan. 29. ... The Nuggets were
playing the second game on a five-game Eastern trip. They opened the
trip with a 111-107 overtime loss at New Orleans on Sunday. They
will continue on at Orlando on Wednesday. ... The Bobcats' 30 wins
are more than their total for the last two seasons combined. ...
Bobcats G Gerald Henderson (right calf strain) missed his fifth
straight game, but coach Steve Clifford said that Henderson should
be ready to play Wednesday at Washington. ... The Bobcats have not
had C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) at all this
season, and F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles) will miss the
rest of the season. ... The Nuggets were without F Danilo Gallinari
(left ACL tear), C JaVale McGee (stress fracture in left tibia) and
G Nate Robinson (left ACL sprain).
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