CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The All-Star break is coming up, and the Charlotte Bobcats find themselves squarely in the middle of a playoff race.
That is something unusual for the 10-year-old franchise, and it was clearly on the team’s collective mind during a 114-89 rout of the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.
The Bobcats were far and away the hungrier team, as they raised their record to 23-29 and held onto eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They also snapped the Mavericks’ five-game winning streak.
“It’s a lot of fun, especially where we were last year at this point in time,” said center Al Jefferson, who led the Bobcats with 30 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “Last year we would have taken off for the All-Star break last week. Now, we’re fighting for something. These guys, you can see it in their eyes. Now, we’re playing for something and trying to reach our goals.”
The Bobcats led by as many as 27. They went on a 10-0 run to open the second quarter and then opened the third quarter with a 13-1 spurt.
Charlotte shot 54.9 percent from the field, made 12 of 24 3-point attempts and registered a franchise-record 42 assists on 45 field goals.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was quick to say that the Bobcats played with more passion than his team did.
“We were poor in all areas and they were great,” Carlisle said. “I give them a lot of credit. Their disposition was great. They were attacking and they had us on our heels all night, really on both ends. When we’re not right and not together and not really on, those young athletic teams like that, they’re hard for us to deal with.”
For Jefferson, it was another stellar night, the fourth time in the past six games that he scored 30 or more. He shot 14-for-23 from the field. Over the past six games, he averaged 28.5 points.
The Bobcats got 22 points, including five 3-pointers, from reserve forward Anthony Tolliver, 15 points from guard Gerald Henderson, 10 points from center Bismack Biyombo, and nine points and 13 assists from forward Josh McRoberts.
“We just made the right plays tonight,” Jefferson said. “Their defense had to pick their poison. Either they were going to play me one-on-one on the block or they were coming off the cutters and Josh was hitting 3s, and if they stayed with Josh, then swing the ball and Kemba (Walker) was hitting 3s, swing the ball and (Tolliver) was hitting 3s. So we were just making the right plays.”
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford pointed to the 3-point shooting as one of the keys.
“Whenever we go 12 of 24 on 3-point shots, we have a good chance of winning,” Clifford said.
The Mavericks had a scare when All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki suffered a sprained left ankle and sat out the final 9:22 of the second quarter. Nowitzki returned to start the third quarter and finished with 16 points.
Dallas (31-22) also got 16 points from guard Monta Ellis, but no other Maverick scored in double figures, including forward Vince Carter, who was 4-for-15 from the field for eight points.
“(The Bobcats) played a dominant game, and we were not good in any area,” Carlisle said. “We didn’t put up enough resistance defensively. Our rebounding wasn’t there. The shot-making was off. You give up 42 assists, that’s not getting it done defensively. We deserved to get thrashed, and we did.”
NOTES: The victory was only the second ever for the Bobcats over the Mavericks. Dallas leads the all-time series 17-2. … The Mavericks won the only previous game between the teams this season, 89-82 in Dallas on Dec. 3. … Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki will be making his 12th NBA All-Star appearance this weekend. Only five players in NBA history appeared in more All-Star games. … The Bobcats’ 23 victories are already better than the 21 wins they had all of last season. … The Mavericks continue to be without G Gal Mekel (right knee surgery). … The Bobcats have not had C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) this season, and have lost F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles) for the rest of the season. … This was the first game of a back-to-back for both teams. The Bobcats play the Nets in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, while the Mavericks close out their three-game road trip against the Pacers in Indiana.
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