CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Center Al Jefferson had 29 points and 16 rebounds and guard Kemba Walker notched a triple-double as the Charlotte Bobcats beat the Orlando Magic 91-80 on Friday night, reducing their magic number to two as they look to clinch a playoff spot for just the second time in franchise history.
The Bobcats (38-38) started pulling away midway through the second quarter and led 53-36 at halftime before pushing the lead to as many as 21 points in the second half.
It marked the first time that the Bobcats have been at .500 since opening the season 5-5 through 10 games.
Jefferson, who was named the Eastern Conference’s player of the month for March earlier in the week, had 21 points and 11 rebounds by halftime. He finished 13 of 24 from the field.
Walker finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Forward Anthony Tolliver scored 13 points and guard Gary Neal had 12 for Charlotte.
Orlando (21-55) got 21 points from guard Victor Oladipo, 15 from forward Tobias Harris and 11 from guard Jameer Nelson.
The Magic, who have the third-worst record in the NBA, raised suspicions that they were tanking the game when center Nikola Vucevic was a late scratch with what was called a sore Achilles. Vucevic had 24 points and 23 rebounds in the Magic’s 110-105 overtime win over the Bobcats in Orlando last Friday.
Charlotte led 20-19 after one quarter, then used a 12-0 spurt midway through the second to start taking control. The biggest lead came at 68-47.
Orlando cut the Charlotte lead to 72-60 after three quarters and got as close as seven early in the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats pulled away again to lead by as many as 14.
NOTES: The Magic entered the game with the worst road record in the NBA at 4-34, and were on pace to finish with the fewest road wins in franchise history. They came into the game 1-23 on the road since Christmas, with their only road win coming at Philadelphia on Feb. 26. … This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season. The Magic had won two of the previous three, including a 110-105 overtime win in Orlando last Friday. … The Bobcats entered the game at No. 7 in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 41/2-game lead over New York and Atlanta, with their magic number down to three. … The Bobcats, with 37 wins coming into the game, have already surpassed their win total of the past two seasons combined (28). They are one of 13 teams in NBA history to do that. … Bobcats F Josh McRoberts (left ankle sprain) missed his second straight game and has already been ruled out of the Bobcats’ game at Cleveland on Saturday. … The Bobcats have been without C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) all season and will be without F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles) for the rest of the season. … The Magic will return home to face Minnesota on Saturday.
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