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Al Jefferson helped the Charlotte Bobcats push their closest competitors for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference further back in the standings.

He'll try to cause more problems for the visiting Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night when his Bobcats look to sweep a home-and-home set.

Jefferson nearly notched the first triple-double of his career Tuesday with 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as Charlotte (24-30) won 108-96 at Detroit.

The Bobcats increased their lead on the ninth-place Pistons (22-31) to 1 1/2 games.

''These games are what it is all about, especially with the Pistons chasing us,'' Jefferson said. ''If you had told us before the season that we would be in this position, we would have been very satisfied. There are 28 games left, and we're in the hunt.''

Jefferson scored more than 30 points for the sixth time in nine games and again tormented the Pistons. He had 24 points and 14 rebounds Dec. 20 when the Bobcats rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat Detroit 116-106.

''He's a bad matchup for the entire league right now,'' interim Pistons coach John Loyer said. ''We knew exactly what he was going to do - they ran the same plays they always run - but there's not much you can do to stop him.''

The Bobcats' two victories in the season series have come on the road, but they have dropped five in a row at home to the Pistons.

Detroit, however, has lost four straight on the road and eight of 13 overall. The Pistons will need to do a better job of keeping Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe on the floor after Jefferson helped put both key big men in foul trouble Tuesday.

Drummond still was outstanding with 16 points, 11 offensive rebounds and 11 defensive rebounds. He was the MVP in the Rising Stars game Friday during All-Star weekend.

Brandon Jennings has totaled 50 points in the losses to Charlotte, but Detroit clearly needs more from Josh Smith and Rodney Stuckey.

Smith made 5 of 17 shots for 12 points although he did grab 11 rebounds Tuesday. Stuckey, a subject of trade rumors because of his expiring contract, went 1 for 11 for two points in 17 minutes.

The Pistons entered averaging 31.8 points from their bench, which was held to 13.

"It's one of those games," Loyer said. "Hopefully it'll be a little better tomorrow."

Smith is shooting 22.8 percent on 3-pointers and has made five of his last 38 attempts. He's one of the reasons why Detroit is a league-worst 30.9 percent from beyond the arc.

The concern for the Pistons on Wednesday remains Jefferson's work inside the 3-point line.

"He's an All-Star player, a matchup nightmare; we know it takes a total team effort to stop a guy like that," Detroit guard Will Bynum said. "We have to look ourselves in the mirror and make sure we're giving the best effort that we can give individually."

Tagged: Pistons, Hornets, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith

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