Basketball / Sports

Bobcats have momentum in Motown

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Charlotte Bobcats took care of business for the second time this season on the road against the Pistons, building a 19-point lead and closing out a 108-96 victory on Tuesday night.

The win clinched a tiebreaker over the Pistons should the two finish tied at the end of the season. The Pistons (22-31) and the New York Knicks are chasing the Bobcats for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bobcats (24-30) now lead the season series 2-0 with the final game Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Al Jefferson led the Bobcats with 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. This was his fifth 30-10 game in his past nine appearances.

The Bobcats led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before settling back to a 12-point lead at 79-67 entering the fourth quarter. By the end of the third quarter, Jefferson had reached 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The Bobcats led at halftime 54-43 after shooting 58 percent from the field. The pattern was set immediately with Charlotte making its first seven attempts from the field. Among those were jump shots by Josh McRoberts and Gerald Henderson that just avoided shot-clock violations.

The only offensive flaw in the first half was foul shooting. The Bobcats made just eight of 20 shots from the line, with small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missing five of his eight attempts.

Kidd-Gilchrist continued to struggle from the perimeter. He had a baseline jump shot that fell about 6 inches short of the rim. But his energy and defense were big in a matchup with the taller Josh Smith.

It's usually big (and unexpected) when the Bobcats are making 3s; they were 4-of-7 from the arc in the first half. Also, the Pistons helped the Bobcats' offense along. Center Andre Drummond had a brain-cramp in the first half, goaltending on a Ramon Sessions drive to the rim well after the whistle sounded that Sessions was going to the foul line.

That's the sort of undisciplined play that has been a problem for the Pistons much of this season. Coach Mo Cheeks was fired before the All-Star break, replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach John Loyer.

The Bobcats made up a 20-point deficit to beat the Pistons in Auburn Hills earlier this season. Jefferson had a huge fourth quarter in that game to finish the comeback.

Greg Monroe guarded Jefferson much of the second quarter. Jefferson finished the half with 12 points of 6-of-11 shooting.

The Pistons shot just 36 percent in the first half. Detroit's bench was particularly bad, shooting 3-of-15. Sixth man Rodney Stuckey shot 1-of-9.

The Bobcats, coming off the five-day All-Star break (they practiced Monday evening in Michigan), looked fresh. Every starter scored at least six points in the first half and Sessions added eight off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting.

Wednesday's rematch will be the first of three home games over four nights. The one off-day -- Thursday -- will coincide with the NBA's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

(c)2014 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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