Saturday, March 15, 2014
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Jefferson lifts Bobcats over Timberwolves

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[March 15, 2014]  CHARLOTTE, N.C.  Center Al Jefferson continues to be a beast, and the Charlotte Bobcats' bench is getting stronger and stronger.

That was a lethal combination on Friday night as the Bobcats rolled over the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-93 for their third straight win and their fifth in the last six games.

Jefferson finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, marking a franchise-record 20th time this season that he has had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game.

The Bobcats' bench, led by guard Gary Neal's 19 points, might have put together its finest collective effort of the season, outscoring the Timberwolves' bench 47-32. Charlotte's bench outscored Minnesota's bench 30-11 in the first half, when the Bobcats pulled out to a 16-point lead and took control of the game. They kept the lead in double figures throughout the second half and led by as many as 18.

Jefferson pointed to the play of Neal and guard Luke Ridnour  both acquired at the trade deadline from Milwaukee  and recent improvement from forwards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Cody Zeller as a huge factor in the Bobcats' recent success.


"Our bench is the one that gave us the lift," Jefferson said. "We've got some veteran guys on the bench now with Luke and Neal. CDR's getting better game by game, Cody's stepped up the second half of the season, so we've got a great bench. And to me, that was the difference in the game tonight."

"The guys on the bench came in and really changed the game," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. "I feel like we have more depth now with Gary and Luke and CDR, and Cody is not a rookie anymore. I feel like the trade helped our depth, and CDR helps our depth, and Cody's development obviously."

The victory moved the Bobcats to 32-34 and was the team's eighth straight at Time Warner Cable Arena.

"Every game from here on out is big for us," Jefferson said. "We're just taking it one game at a time and just trying to play Bobcat basketball."

Neal scored 16 in the first half, and triggered a 26-10 run over the first eight minutes of the second quarter after the teams were tied 33-33 after one quarter. Douglas-Roberts and Zeller finished with 10 points each, as did guard Gerald Henderson and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

"They got it going and the start of the second quarter just killed us," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "Second half, it was an even game, but we got too far down. We scored 33 in the first quarter but when we went to the bench they continued to score and we weren't scoring. We weren't keeping the pace up. So that's something we've got to turn around the next game."

Guard Kevin Martin led the Timberwolves with 19 points. Forward Kevin Love finished with 18 and went scoreless in the second half, missing all seven second-half field-goal attempts. Forwards Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham were the only two other Timberwolves in double figures with 10 each, as center Nikola Pekovic was limited to only 16 minutes because of an ankle injury.

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The Bobcats were humble about shutting Love down in the second half.

"Kevin is a smart player, especially offensively," Jefferson said. "We just wanted to keep a body on him and have him shoot over a hand. We kept giving him different looks, and fortunately for us he had a bad night. He's the fourth-leading scorer in the league so he's dangerous any time he gets the ball in his hands."

Minnesota fell to 32-32 and Adelman acknowledged that the team's playoff chances are dwindling by the day. He said the challenge now is to stay focused and get over the disappointment.

"They've got to play," Adelman said. "The season's still there. Playoffs or no playoffs, you have to play. You've got to compete. It's a matter of, the next game we've got to come out and try to win."

"It's just one game," Love said. "The word intensity is something we need to keep regardless. We need to fight and win as many games as we can. We've got to show up every night and go to work."

NOTES: The Bobcats came into Friday's game at No. 7 in the Eastern Conference standings, 2 1/2 games behind No. 6 Washington and two games ahead of No. 8 Atlanta. They have a 5 1/2-game cushion over No. 9 New York. ... The Timberwolves came into the game No. 10 in the Western Conference standings, 5 1/2 games behind No. 8 Dallas. ... This was the second and final meeting between the teams this season. The Timberwolves won 119-92 in Minneapolis on Jan. 10. ... Bobcats G Gary Neal returned after missing the win at Washington Wednesday because of what was termed an internal team issue. ... The Bobcats chose not to re-sign C Justin Hamilton when his 10-day contract expired at midnight Friday. Hamilton then signed with Miami on Friday. ... The Bobcats have not had C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) any this season, and have lost F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles) for the rest of the season. ... The Timberwolves were missing G A.J. Price (appendectomy) and C Ronny Turiaf (bone bruise right knee). ... The Bobcats will play at Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, while the Timberwolves will host Sacramento on Sunday night.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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