OAKLAND, Calif. — The Charlotte Bobcats left home nine days ago on for a difficult road trip.
Improbably, the trek was a rousing success.
Jefferson and shooting guard Gerald Henderson combined for 47 points Tuesday night as the Bobcats capped an impressive Western swing with a 91-75 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Winning for the third time on the four-game venture, the Bobcats (22-28) surpassed their victory total from the entire 2012-13 season.
More important, Charlotte flew home early Wednesday morning holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the East as a result of knocking off three of last year’s Western playoff clubs.
“We believed before we left Charlotte the West Coast trip could break us or could help us,” center Al Jefferson said after a 30-point night that gave him a 35-point average in the Bobcats’ three Western wins. “Thank goodness it turned out this way. We feel like this could have been the turning point of our season.”
Jefferson scored 11 of his 30 points in the third quarter, and Henderson added eight of his 17 as Charlotte staved off Golden State’s best charge of the night in handing the Warriors (29-20) a fourth loss in their past six home games.
In doing so, the Bobcats held Golden State to a season-low field-goal percentage (31.2 percent, 29 of 93) and its lowest scoring output in a home game all season.
“We were organized,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said of the defensive effort. “We got back in transition and we were organized in our pick-and-roll defense. Listen, that wasn’t (the Warriors’) best, but I liked the way our guys played.”
Point guard Kemba Walker returned from a seven-game absence caused by a sprained left ankle to contribute seven points, seven assists and six rebounds as the Bobcats completed a two-game, season-series sweep over the Western playoff contender.
Former Warriors forward Anthony Tolliver came off the Charlotte bench to add 11 points, six coming on consecutive 3-pointers after Golden State closed within 72-60 early in the fourth quarter.
Jefferson also had 13 rebounds, including 11 on the defensive end, to secure the fourth 30/10 effort in his past five games.
“When you’re playing against a great defensive player like Andrew Bogut … you can’t try to attack him one way,” Jefferson said. “You just have to learn how to choose your spots when you go up against guys like that.”
All-Star point guard Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 17 points — 11 fewer than his career average against Charlotte.
Curry also had 11 assists, Bogut grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, and shooting guard Klay Thompson managed 12 points despite 5-for-13 shooting for the Warriors, who were attempting to get Mark Jackson his 100th win as the Golden State coach.
“We are taking the life out of the building,” Jackson said of the Warriors’ fourth home loss in 17 days. “Just disappointing. Another game where … it’s a game we should win.”
Warriors power forward David Lee shot 3-for-13 and was held to eight points, snapping his string of 123 consecutive games scoring in double figures.
The Warriors, who won their previous two games, shot just 20 percent (four of 20) from 3-point range and were outscored 15-12 from beyond the arc despite attempting seven more 3s than the Bobcats.
“The mark of a really good team is they take care of home court,” Lee said. “Teams like (Washington and Charlotte), we can’t lose those at home. Just like Orlando got us twice last year. Charlotte did that to us this year, and it’s very, very disappointing.”
The Bobcats built a 51-39 halftime advantage on the strength of a 26-13, game-opening run in which the Warriors missed 19 of their 25 shots.
Jefferson hit five of eight and had 13 points in the half, during which Charlotte shot 50 percent from the field.
The Bobcats never led by fewer than eight in the second half.
NOTES: The 16-point margin of victory was Charlotte’s largest ever against Golden State. … The season-series sweep of the Warriors was just the second in Bobcats history. … Charlotte is now 11-15 on the road. It won only six games away from home all last season. … Golden State’s 75 points were its fewest ever against Charlotte, and its .312 field-goal percentage was its lowest since 2004. … Warriors PG Stephen Curry’s 17 points were the fewest he ever scored against the Bobcats. … Having had only 15 days off during January, the Bobcats play only three times in the next 13 days. … The Bobcats were not the only team to get a key player back from injury. Warriors backup C Jermaine O’Neal had been out since Dec. 9 after surgery on his right wrist. O’Neal played 16 1/2 minutes off the bench Tuesday, and he contributed nine points and eight rebounds.
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