The Charlotte Bobcats’ playoff chances are looking awfully good after a 101-92 victory Friday over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The victory left the Bobcats 3-0 this season against the Cavs, one of the teams chasing them for one of the last two playoff spots in the East. That means the Bobcats have a tiebreaker if they finish the season tied with Cleveland.
The Bobcats already hold a tiebreaker over the Detroit Pistons.
The Bobcats got 28 points from center Al Jefferson. Point guard Kemba Walker contributed 20 points and 14 assists as the Bobcats improved to 29-33. The Cavs (24-39) got 19 points each from Luol Deng and Dion Waiters.
This was the Bobcats’ sixth straight home victory at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Josh McRoberts put the Bobcats up six with 31/2minutes left on a 3 from above the key. Jefferson spread the lead to nine with just over two minutes at the foul line.
Down the stretch, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford went with four of five starters. Anthony Tolliver played at small forward instead of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That’s consistent with Clifford’s philosophy. He typically wants his best defensive unit on the floor to start the game and a more offensive group to finish.
The Cavs tied the game at 55-all early in the third quarter, only to see the Bobcats push their lead to 10. Clifford went back to his bench and the margin slipped back to two entering the fourth quarter.
Walker picked up his fourth foul during the third quarter, sending him to the bench. After scoring a single point in the first half, Walker had seven points and three assists in the third quarter.
The Bobcats led 55-50 at the half..
The Cavaliers shot 55 percent in the first half, consistently driving the ball into the lane. They scored 26 points in the paint by halftime, compared to the Bobcats’ 16.
Cleveland’s sixth man, Waiters, scored 11 in the first half, picking up the slack when Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving got in foul trouble. He committed his third with just over four minutes left in the half, trying to close out on a 3-pointer by Bobcats guard Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Douglas-Roberts is filling in while starter Gerald Henderson recovers from a right calf strain. He played particularly well in the first half, scoring 13 points of eight shots. Douglas-Roberts made four of his six attempts from 3-point range.
Jefferson, who missed the first two games this season against the Cavs with an ankle injury, scored 18 in the first half on 8-of-10 shooting. As a team the Bobcats shot 54 percent in the first half.
Henderson’s injury is stressing the Bobcats’ depth. Newcomer Gary Neal is the only real scorer among the second five, and a nine point lead in the first quarter dwindled to one before Clifford reinserted Jefferson in the second.
Walker had nine assists at the half. The Bobcats’ first 11 baskets all came off assists.
The Bobcats are in Memphis Saturday to play the Grizzlies, the last road game this season against a Western Conference team. Henderson has already been ruled out for that game.
BOBCATS 101, CAVALIERS 92
Percentages: FG .430, FT .750. Three-Point Goals: 3-17, .176 (Dellavedova 1-1, Hawes 1-3, Waiters 1-3, Jack 0-1, Deng 0-2, Irving 0-7). Team Rebounds: 14. Team Turnovers: 14 (11 PTS). Blocked Shots: 1 (Jack). Turnovers: 13 (Irving 4, Jack 3, Deng 2, T.Zeller 2, Bennett, Hawes). Steals: 7 (Waiters 3, Irving 2, Deng, T.Zeller). Technical Fouls: Defensive three second, 7:01 first.
Percentages: FG .468, FT .909. Three-Point Goals: 9-29, .310 (Douglas-Roberts 4-7, McRoberts 3-7, Tolliver 1-4, Walker 1-5, Neal 0-3, Ridnour 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Team Turnovers: 14 (16 PTS). Blocked Shots: 10 (Jefferson 3, Kidd-Gilchrist 2, Tolliver 2, Biyombo, Douglas-Roberts, Walker). Turnovers: 12 (Jefferson 4, Ridnour 4, Neal 2, Kidd-Gilchrist, Walker). Steals: 6 (Douglas-Roberts 2, Walker 2, Jefferson, C.Zeller).
Att.—15,688 (19,077). T—2:11.
Officials—Ken Mauer, Curtis Blair, Tre Maddox.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell