Bobcats battle back to top Wizards 100-94

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Al Jefferson laughed when told he finished three stitches shy of a triple-double.

”I have to call my agent because I’m done with my modeling career,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson had seven stitches in the first half to repair a gash above his right eye, but returned to finish with 19 points and 11 rebounds, helping the Bobcats overcome an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and defeat Washington 100-94 Monday night. The win prevented the Wizards from clinching their first playoff berth since 2008.

Jefferson’s put back off an offensive rebound with 3:30 left in the game helped the Bobcats take the lead for good at 93-92.

Kemba Walker had a big second half, finishing with 21 points and 10 assists, and rookie Cody Zeller scored a career-high 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting and added eight rebounds for Charlotte.

Walker scored nine points in the final quarter and the Bobcats erased a 16-point halftime deficit and pulled within two games of the Washington in the race for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs Both teams have eight games left and will meet again on April 9.

”We made big shots and played well defensively in the second half and really came together as a team,” Walker said. ”It shows our resiliency. That was a big win for us.”

Bradley Beal had 20 points for the Wizards, who missed 11 of their last 14 shots from the field.

”It (stinks) man,” Washington’s Al Harrington said of not clinching a playoff spot. ”Because obviously we played a great first half. We really thought tonight was our night, but to have them come out and play the way that they played and beat us – that’s tough.”

Washington still would have clinched a playoff spot if the Utah Jazz had defeated New York later Monday, but the Knicks won 92-83.

The Wizards (38-36) came in looking to snap the third-longest playoff drought in the NBA – and for a while it looked like they would.

The Wizards shot 59 percent in the first half, at one point hitting 10 straight shots from the field and scoring on 14 of 15 possessions to close the first half on a 30-7 run.

The Bobcats could do little right in what Jefferson called an ”embarrassing” first half.

But he was confident they would battle back.

Jefferson walked to the scorer’s table at the start of the third quarter and told whoever was in earshot, ”Hey, watch this comeback.”

”Everyone looked at me like I was crazy,” Jefferson said. ”At the end of the game though people were pointing at me saying, `You said it. You said it.”’

Charlotte’s defense was the big difference.

Coach Steve Clifford also went to a pick-and-roll with Walker and Jefferson.

”The Wizards did a good job of taking away the post,” Clifford said.

The momentum turned four minutes into the fourth quarter when Walker came up with the loose ball off a Washington turnover and fed Chris Douglas-Roberts for a fast-break layup in traffic with 7:38 left in the game. Douglas-Roberts had to adjust in midair to get his body from one side of the rim to the other to avoid defenders and get the shot to drop.

Douglas-Roberts made a 3-point play and then knocked down a long-distance 3 to cut the lead to one before Jefferson’s put back gave the Bobcats the lead for good.

Jefferson hit a 16-footer to push the lead to three.

Walker followed with a backbreaker when he scored on a driving layup to make it 97-92 after a Bobcats possession that took more than a minute off the clock. Charlotte twice came up with key offensive rebounds, allowing Walker to bring the ball back out and reset the offense and milk time off the clock.

”When you give a team two to three looks one time down the floor, they’re going to make one,” said Wizards forward Drew Gooden. ”I would say we lost the game giving them second and third possessions offensively.”

Jefferson left the game briefly at the end of the first quarter to head to the locker room to get the stitches above his right eye after taking an inadvertent elbow from Trevor Booker.

”I had to get a shot to numb it and I hate needles,” Jefferson said.

NOTES: Gary Neal returned to action for the Bobcats after missing two games with an ankle injury. He had nine points … The Bobcats have won four of six against Washington, but have split their two games this season. … The Bobcats have won 11 of their last 13 at home.