AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Center Al Jefferson collected 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and the Charlotte Bobcats won the first game of a home-and-home series with the Detroit Pistons 108-96 Tuesday night at The Palace.
Point guard Kemba Walker had 22 points and six assists, and forward Josh McRoberts added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Charlotte (24-30), which moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The teams play again Wednesday night in Charlotte.
Jefferson scored 30 or more points for the sixth time in nine games.
Point guard Brandon Jennings led the Pistons (22-31) with 24 points and seven assists. Power forward Greg Monroe contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds, and center Andre Drummond supplied 16 points and a career-high-tying 22 rebounds.
In the team’s first meeting, Dec. 20 at The Palace, Charlotte erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit while defeating Detroit 116-106. The Bobcats took an entirely different route to victory Tuesday, never trailing while leading by double digits a majority of the game.
Jefferson made two layups during an 8-0 Charlotte run early in the third to make it 67-49. Guard Ramon Sessions’ fast-break layup inched the Bobcats’ lead to 77-58. Drummond’s putback brought the Pistons within 79-67 by the end of the quarter.
Detroit cut its deficit to nine on three occasions before a Jennings 3-pointer made it 89-81. However, Jefferson and Walker kept coming up with answers, and the Pistons got no closer.
Charlotte shot 58.3 percent from the field and held the Pistons to 36.2 percent shooting in the first half while establishing a 54-43 halftime lead. The Bobcats, who made their first seven field-goal attempts, could have built an even bigger lead if they hadn’t missed 12 of 20 free throws.
The Bobcats made 52 percent of their field-goal attempts on the night, while the Pistons hit just 39.8 percent.
NOTES: C Andre Drummond has the most double-doubles by a Piston since Grant Hill’s 44 in 1995-96, notching his 40th Tuesday. … Detroit PG Brandon Jennings has 16 games with at least 10 assists, compared with 13 last season when he played for the Milwaukee Bucks. … Charlotte has played a league-high 24 games decided by six points or fewer and won half of them. … Bobcats SG Gerald Henderson is one of eight guards league-wide who started every game before the All-Star break. … Charlotte improved to 14-3 when it reaches 100 points. … PF Charlie Villanueva was not with the Pistons for personal reasons but might rejoin them in Charlotte for Wednesday night’s game. … Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said his team is surprising many NBA observers. “I don’t think anybody would have said with 29 games left Charlotte will be right there, playing meaningful games,” he said. … The teams have a combined five players who attended the University of Connecticut.
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