CHARLOTTE — Center Al Jefferson scored a season-high 35 points to lead the Charlotte Bobcats past the New York Knicks 108-98 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The victory gives the Bobcats (16-23) a 2-1 lead in the series against a New York team they could battle for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. They have one more matchup this season in New York.
The Knicks (15-23) got 20 points from Carmelo Anthony. For the Bobcats, point guard Kemba Walker added 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Back-to-back 3s by Walker with about nine minutes left in the game spread the Bobcats’ lead up to 12. The Knicks struggled to guard Jefferson in the post one-on-one. The help they gave in the paint made Bobcats guards pretty wide-open along the 3-point line.
They made six of their first 12 attempts from 3-point range.
Ex-Bobcat Raymond Felton, now the Knicks’ starting point guard, had big problems guarding Walker. He fouled out with about three minutes to go, also drawing a technical foul as he left the court.
The Bobcats spread their nine-point lead to as much as 11 in the third quarter. Then Anthony started heating up and the Knicks trimmed the deficit to five entering the final period.
Anthony Tolliver was guarding Anthony for much of the third quarter, while small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got some rest in his first game back from a broken hand. Kidd-Gilchrist hadn’t played since early December and the Bobcats went 7-12 in his absence.
The Bobcats led 55-46 at halftime, with Jefferson scoring 19 points off 7-of-9 shooting from the field.
Kidd-Gilchrist applied the energy the Bobcats have frequently lacked on defense recently. That showed up in Carmelo Anthony’s relatively quiet eight points in the first half. Anthony has averaged about 26 per game this season.
The Bobcats shot 53 percent in the first half and got 14 points off the bench. They also did a better job of holding opponents to one shot per possession.
The Bobcats gave up 23 second-chance points to the Bulls Saturday, a season worst. Tuesday, the Knicks scored two points off a single offensive rebound before halftime.
The Knicks got back center Tyson Chandler, who had missed several games with bronchitis. So the Knicks went big starting Chandler alongside 7-footer Andrea Bargnani. That didn’t do them much good on the boards, with the Bobcats outrebounding New York at the half 19-14.
The Bobcats broke open a tight game in the last 2 1/2 minutes of the first half, spreading a two-point lead to as much as 11. Jefferson scored on three consecutive possessions in that run.
The Bobcats have a busy week with four games in five nights. They’re at the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, at the Orlando Magic on Friday and home against the Miami Heat on Saturday. The Bobcats have yet to win a game within their Southeast Division.