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Bobcats continue playoff push with win

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PHILADELPHIA — The Charlotte Bobcats are trying to reach the playoffs for just the second time in their history and veteran center Al Jefferson is determined to lead them there.

Jefferson had 25 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday night as the Bobcats drubbed the Philadelphia 76ers 123-93.

“It falls a lot on me (to lead the way),” he said.

Jefferson noted that veteran guards Gary Neal and Jannero Pargo also have been on teams that have made deep postseason runs but added, “It starts with me, because I’ve only been there twice (in 10 seasons). But twice is more than a lot of other guys have been. … I have to set the tone.”

Backup forward Anthony Tolliver added 16 points for the Bobcats (37-38), who are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining. They are 4 1/2 games ahead of eighth-place New York and ninth-place Atlanta. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

The only other time that Charlotte reached the postseason in its 10-year history was in 2009-10.

“This is how we have to play,” coach Steve Clifford said. “We played a really, really good game. … All night our focus and intensity was really good.”

Guard Michael Carter-Williams scored 22 points to pace the Sixers (16-59), who lost for the 28th time in 29 games, and for the 19th time in 20 home games. Center Henry Sims added 15 points and backup guard Elliot Williams had 12 for Philadelphia.

“I respect the route that program has taken to end up where it is,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the Bobcats. “That is a good example for our guys. That is a team that’s going to the playoffs. That’s how a team that’s going to the playoffs competes and executes and they shot the heck out of it tonight.”

Jefferson, who on Tuesday was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Month for March, posted his 35th double-double of the season and his fourth in the past five games. He made 9 of 17 shots from the floor while playing only the first three quarters. It was the 39th time this season he has scored 20 points or more.

Neal had 15 points and guard Gerald Henderson and reserve guard Chris Douglas-Roberts had 14 apiece for Charlotte, which shot 53.2 percent from the floor and enjoyed a 47-32 rebounding advantage.

Bobcats rookie forward Cody Zeller, making his first career start in place of injured Josh McRoberts, had nine points and eight rebounds.

Jefferson scored 17 points in the first half as Charlotte sprinted to a 63-38 lead. The Bobcats led by as many as 35 in the second half.

Ten of Jefferson’s points came in the first 8:29 when Charlotte sprinted to a 24-11 lead.

“It’s important to set a tone that you’re going to play through him early in the game,” Clifford said. “To me, two of the things we try to do is get ball movement and play inside-out. Usually that would be going through him.”

A 14-0 second-quarter run, which included two 3-pointers by Tolliver, made it 49-24.

Henderson had 11 points in the first half for Charlotte, which shot 59 percent from the floor and owned a 27-12 rebounding advantage.

Carter-Williams paced the Sixers with 18 first-half points, but Philadelphia shot just 38.1 percent from the field and missed all seven of its 3-point attempts.

For the game, the Sixers shot 42.2 percent from the floor and missed 14 of their 18 attempts from behind the arc.

NOTES: The Bobcats ended a six-game losing streak in Philadelphia. … Philadelphia G Michael Carter-Williams was selected the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the third time this season on Tuesday, the first Sixer to be honored that many times. “I see him getting better because he’s understanding the game better,” coach Brett Brown said. “I think he’s the Rookie of the Year.” … Charlotte C Al Jefferson is the first Bobcat to be named Player of the Month, and he was honored for the first time in his career. Coach Steve Clifford praised Jefferson for his defense and leadership, and added, “He badly wants to win.” … Brown said earlier this season that he hoped C Nerlens Noel, sidelined his entire rookie season because of a knee injury, would see action at some point. Now, Brown said, he is “ambivalent” about it because of continuing concerns over Noel’s health. … Bobcats F Josh McRoberts and Sixers F Byron Mullens each sat out because of sprained left ankles.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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