CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Utah coach Tyrone Corbin preached to his team before the game not to take the Charlotte Bobcats for granted.
Apparently his team listened.
Al Jefferson had 26 points and eight rebounds, and the Jazz posted a wire-to-wire 112-102 victory Wednesday night over the Bobcats for their fourth win in five games.
Jefferson was 11 of 15 from the field and the Bobcats simply had no answer for the 6-foot-10 center in the paint.
Paul Millsap chipped in with 19 points and Gordon Hayward was 4 of 5 from 3-point range for 14 points as the Jazz made light work of the Bobcats’ zone defense, shooting 54 percent from the field.
“They tried to double-team me and Paul got off,” Jefferson said. “They start worrying about Paul, I got off. They start worrying about both of us, Gordon and (DeMarre Carroll) and all those guys start hitting big shots. It just all worked out.”
Utah led from the opening tip, building a 19-point halftime lead. The Jazz (19-18) never allowed the Bobcats to get any closer than 10 in the second half and moved back above .500.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t come out and take these guys for granted,” Corbin said. “They play hard and they played hard for an entire 48 minutes. They can make shots and attack the basket hard.”
Ben Gordon led six Bobcats in double figures, scoring 20 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 15 points and eight rebounds, while Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker each had 14 points for the Bobcats (9-25).
The Bobcats came in feeling confident, having won two of three since their 18-game losing streak. But once again they struggled coming out of the blocks.
The Jazz outscored the Bobcats 29-11 in the final six minutes of the first half to take a 19-point lead into the locker room. They did it with five 3-pointers — two each by Randy Foye and Hayward — during one 4 -minute span.
“When we tried to cover them straight up that wasn’t the answer and when we tried to double them they abused us from the outside,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said.
Alex Burks chipped in with 14 points and DeMarre Carroll and Derrick Favors each had 10 for the Jazz. Favors hit all five shots from the field.
“I thought we did a much better job defensively and that led us to some easy buckets,” Hayward said. “We were obviously going through Paul and Al. They carried us again. We thought we had a little bit of an advantage inside and so we kind of used them. When they were double teamed, they kicked out and we were able to knock down some shots.”
Jamaal Tinsley had nine points and eight assists to go along with his two steals for Utah.
“I think as long as we share the ball like we do, like tonight we give ourselves a chance to play like we did tonight,” Tinsley said. “If we share the ball, no matter who scores, you know, everybody gets involved. Everybody makes shots. The biggest thing was we got stops tonight.”
Whenever Charlotte tried to make a run, the Jazz had a quick answer.
Most of the time that meant getting the ball down low to Jefferson, Millsap and Favors, who had little problem scoring against Charlotte’s big men Brendan Haywood and Bismack Biyombo.
Together that trio was a combined 24 of 30 from the field.
“I thought we got the ball inside and we attacked the basket,” Corbin said. “I thought Al and Paul went to the basket hard but the passes they made to their teammates when they got double teamed gave guys good looks.”
The Jazz were 10 of 22 from 3-point range.
Jefferson had all his points in the first three quarters and didn’t play much down the stretch as the Jazz didn’t particularly need his services with the game mostly out of hand.
The Bobcats have surrendered at least 100 points in 16 of their last 19 games.
“We have to pick up our defense,” Henderson said. “We scored enough, but we gave up too many points to win. It’s tough to try to come back on a team like that when you’re down early by so much.”
Two Charlotte starters — Biyombo and Tyrus Thomas — did not score, and rookie Jeffery Taylor only managed six points.
Charlotte’s bench outscored its starters 67-35.
Despite those numbers Dunlap doesn’t seem ready to change to the starting lineup since it’s what worked in a 108-101 overtime win at Detroit on Sunday.
“I like the lineup that we had starting out against Detroit and I tried to stay with that tonight,” Dunlap said. NOTES: The Bobcats continue to be without center Byron Mullens, who remains out with an ankle injury. … Millsap scored in double figures for the fourth straight game and the 25th time this season. … Jefferson topped 20 points for the tenth time this season.