CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Bobcats were embarrassed at halftime.
So they did something about it in the second half.
The result was a dramatic 100-94 victory over the Washington Wizards that kept the Bobcats’ hopes of catching the Wizards for the No. 6 Eastern Conference playoff seed alive.
The Bobcats’ win prevented the Wizards from clinching their first playoff berth since 2008.
Trailing 60-44 at halftime and 80-70 entering the fourth quarter, the Bobcats outscored the Wizards 30-14 in the fourth quarter, with a 12-0 run late in the game. They wound up outscoring the Wizards 19-4 over the final 6 1/2 minutes.
“I feel like we played two games tonight,” Bobcats center Al Jefferson said. “It’s embarrassing the way we played in the first half. It’s like we weren’t even trying. So we knew what we had to do in the second half. Our defense got us back in the game and we finally started making some shots.
“This just shows when we dedicate ourselves and get our mind together and focus on the right stuff, which is defense, then we’re a great team.”
The victory moved the Bobcats (36-38) to just two games back of the Wizards (38-36) with eight games remaining for both teams. They will meet one more time in Washington on April 9.
Guard Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 21 points and 10 assists, including the Bobcats’ final five points. Jefferson had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and gave the Bobcats the lead for good at 93-92 with 3:30 remaining. Forwards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Cody Zeller came off the bench to score 18 and 15, respectively.
The game was won at the defensive end, though.
After erupting for 40 points in the second quarter, the Wizards were limited to just 34 points in the entire second half.
“That’s our game,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “That’s how we have to play. We’ve got to be balanced, and for our team it’s got to start with digging in and defending and rebounding, and that’s what we did tonight. We were in the right mentality in the second half.”
“We kinda got a little flustered in the first half,” Walker said. “We just weren’t as focused as we usually are. We came in at half and we talked about it and we regrouped, and guys stepped up and started making shots and getting stops. It just shows our resiliency. That was a huge win.”
Washington coach Randy Wittman blasted his team for its second-half performance. The Wizards shot 75 percent from the field on 15 of 20 in the 40-point second-quarter explosion, but were sloppy and lackadaisical in the second half.
“We didn’t share the ball in the second half,” Wittman said. “That’s it. First half, we did. The second unit did. We were moving the ball and everybody was touching it. Then we came out at the beginning of the second half and we would bring it down one side of the floor and exhaust our dribble. I don’t know how much clearer it can be when we move the ball and when we don’t. We were held to 34 points in the second half because we were selfish.”
Guard Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 20 points. Guard Martell Webster scored 14, forward Drew Gooden had 12, and forwards Trevor Ariza and Al Harrington added 11 each. Guard John Wall suffered through a 4-of-16 shooting performance for 10 points, and he had five turnovers.
NOTES: C Al Jefferson was hit in the face and required seven stitches above his right eye in the second quarter. He quipped afterward that he was three stitches away from a triple-double. … This was the third of four meetings between the teams this season. They had split the previous two. … The Bobcats signed F D.J. White to a second 10-day contract on Monday. White had played just four minutes entering Monday night’s action. … The Bobcats came into the game leading the league in fewest turnovers, averaging 12.4 per game. … Bobcats G Gary Neal was back in action after missing the previous two games with a sprained ankle. … The Bobcats have not had 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. … Wizards F Nene (sprained left knee) missed his 18th straight game. … The Bobcats will play at Philadelphia on Wednesday and will have four of their next five games on the road. … The Wizards will return home to face Boston on Wednesday and will have three of their next four games at home.
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