Magic at Bobcats game preview
The Charlotte Bobcats continue to inch closer to the second playoff appearance in the 10-year history of the franchise.
While they couldn't handle the woeful Orlando Magic last week, facing them at home could make all the difference.
Charlotte goes for a third consecutive victory Friday night when they face the Magic, who have just one road win in 2014.
The Bobcats (37-38) return home following Wednesday's quick trip to Philadelphia, where they easily won 123-93 behind 25 points and 10 rebounds from Al Jefferson. Charlotte shot 53.2 percent and held a 47-32 edge on the glass.
"We took a step forward in maturity in just going out there and taking care of business," Jefferson told the NBA's official website.
The Bobcats, 4 1/2 games ahead of New York and Atlanta for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, need no more three wins in their final seven games to lock up a berth. Their only previous postseason appearance came in 2009-10, when they suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of Orlando.
"That's a team getting ready for the playoffs," 76ers guard Tony Wroten said. "You can tell a big difference."
It's hard to imagine where Charlotte would be without Jefferson, who ranks seventh in the NBA with 25.2 points per game since Jan. 11. He was named East player of the month in March, becoming the first Bobcat to ever win the award.
"It falls a lot on me," said Jefferson, who joined the team as a free agent in July. "I've only been twice (to the playoffs), but twice is more than a lot of the other guys have been."
The Bobcats figure to be out for revenge against the Magic (21-54), who beat them 110-105 in overtime last Friday. Orlando also pulled out a 92-83 win in Charlotte on Dec. 11 but has dropped 23 of 24 on the road since Christmas, including seven straight by an average of 10.0 points.
The Magic own the NBA's worst road record at 4-34 and are in danger of posting the worst in franchise history with just three road games remaining. Orlando finished 6-35 away from home during its inaugural 1989-90 season.
Charlotte has won 11 of 13 at home.
Orlando is hoping to avoid a third straight loss and 12th in 14 games after falling 119-98 to Cleveland on Wednesday. The Magic allowed 35 points in each of the first two quarters and were outscored 64-32 in the paint and 25-6 in transition.
"When you go to work every day, you take pride in what you do. I believe in the men in our locker room take pride in what they do. But some days it's not your day," coach Jacque Vaughn told the team's official website. "We'll get back at it and talk about it when we get to Charlotte and have shootaround and we'll be ready to play again."
Maurice Harkless was the only Magic starter to score in double figures with 10 points. Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo scored seven apiece while shooting a combined 6 of 21.
Vucevic had 24 points and a season-high 23 rebounds while Afflalo scored 17 in last week's win over Charlotte. Bobcats guard Kemba Walker had 24 points that night, matching his average in the last seven meetings, but shot 8 for 25.