Kemba Walker made four free throws in the closing seconds and Josh McRoberts blocked Brian Roberts’ half-court shot as the Charlotte Bobcats held off the New Orleans Pelicans 90-87.
Center Al Jefferson carried the Bobcats offensively with 33 points, plus 10 rebounds. Jefferson has now reached 30 or more points in seven of the past 11 games.
The Bobcats are on a three-game winning streak, improving to 26-30.
Roberts finished with 20 points, while Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis totaled 18 and 13 rebounds.
Poor foul-shooting nearly cost the Bobcats. They were 25 of 36 from the foul line.
Leading by two with 24 seconds left, the Bobcats went on defense. Jefferson blocked a drive by Eric Gordon, but Kemba Walker missed two free throws to give the Pelicans possession with 15 seconds left.
Jefferson fouled Gordon wih 11 seconds left. Gordon made one of two, giving the Bobcats possession with 10 seconds left and an 86-85 lead.
Jefferson scored 11 points in the third quarter, as the Bobcats led by nine entering the fourth. Jefferson was so offensively dominant that he had more baskets through three quarters (13) than the rest of his teammates combined (12).
Rookie Cody Zeller was his only teammate to reach double-figures scoring in three quarters. He totaled 11 entering the fourth and reached 13 – a new career-high early in the fourth.
The Pelicans trimmed what had been a 13-point Charlotte lead to five with 4 1/2 minutes left on Eric Gordon’s 3-pointer from above the key. That caused an immediate timeout by Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, whose team was then being outshot 42 percent to 40 percent.
Subtract Jefferson’s shooting from that equation and the rest of the Bobcats were 16-of-45 from the field.
The timeout didn’t stop New Orleans’ run. Roberts’ free throws with 3:18 left made it a one-point game.
Jefferson finally righted things with a put-back of his own miss with 2 1/2 minutes left. He was fouled by Tyreke Evans on the play. The basket and free throw broke a scoreless span of about four minutes for the Bobcats.
The Bobcats led at halftime 43-32, with Jefferson supplying 18 points and seven rebounds. Jefferson was guarded mostly by ex-Bobcats center Alexis Ajinca and it was a major mismatch. Jefferson made nine of 17 shots from the field on a wide variety of post moves.
The Pelicans couldn’t keep up with Jefferson’s scoring pace. New Orleans star Anthony Davis had 10 points at halftime on 5-of-9 shooting, but no other Pelican topped six first-half points. As a team the Pelicans shot just 14-of-41 from the field. They were particularly inaccurate from 3-point range, shooting 3-of-13.
Even without Ramon Sessions, who was packaged in Thursday’s trade to Milwaukee, the Bobcats ran up a big advantage in trips to the foul line. The Bobcats took 14 free throws to the Pelicans’ two in the first half. Good as the Bobcats were at reaching the foul line, they made only half of their attempts in the first half.
Friday, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson and Cody Zeller all attempted four or more free throws.
BOBCATS 90, PELICANS 87
Percentages: FG .422, FT .727. Three-Point Goals: 9-23, .391 (Babbitt 2-4, E.Gordon 2-4, Roberts 2-4, Aminu 1-1, Rivers 1-3, Morrow 1-4, Evans 0-3). Team Rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 12 (13 PTS). Blocked Shots: 7 (Davis 4, Stiemsma 2, Evans). Turnovers: 10 (Ajinca 2, Morrow 2, Babbitt, Davis, Evans, E.Gordon, Roberts, Stiemsma). Steals: 2 (Aminu, Roberts).
Percentages: FG .388, FT .694. Three-Point Goals: 3-15, .200 (Tolliver 3-3, Pargo 0-1, Douglas-Roberts 0-3, McRoberts 0-4, Walker 0-4). Team Rebounds: 16. Team Turnovers: 11 (10 PTS). Blocked Shots: 9 (McRoberts 3, Jefferson 2, Biyombo, Douglas-Roberts, Pargo, Tolliver). Turnovers: 11 (Jefferson 4, Biyombo 2, Zeller 2, Douglas-Roberts, Pargo, Walker). Steals: 5 (Kidd-Gilchrist 2, Douglas-Roberts, Henderson, Pargo).
Att.—15,867 (19,077). T—2:20.
Officials—Scott Foster, Kevin Cutler, Zach Zarba.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell