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Sports

Bobcats win 7th straight at home
Newcomer Neal contributes in victory over Denver
 
Published Tuesday, March 11, 2014 6:14 am
by Steve Reed, The Associated Press

The Charlotte Bobcats are getting used to big nights from Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker.

Now, they have Gary Neal to throw into the offensive mix.

The newly acquired Neal came off the bench and scored 19 points as the surging Bobcats won their seventh home game in a row, defeating the Denver Nuggets 105-98 on Monday night.

Jefferson led all scorers with 26 points and Walker scored 24, but it was Neal's work off the bench that may have made the biggest difference with Gerald Henderson out with a strained right calf muscle.

"It was a huge to get a win at home and protect our homecourt, especially with the standings the way they are," said Neal, who was playing in his only his seventh game with the team since coming over from Milwaukee in a trade on Feb. 20.

"I felt good in the (Monday) morning shootaround and had a good individual workout before the game," Neal added. "Then, the first couple shots fell and I got in a good rhythm."

Neal actually made his first six field-goal tries as the Bobcats, currently in position to grab the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs, improved to 30-34. Three of those baskets by Neal were 3-pointers.

The Nuggets, who fell to 27-36, were led by Ty Lawson's 24 points — 15 of which came in the fourth quarter as he tried to rally his team.

"They were without Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal stepped in and did what he needed to do," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "We have to learn to respect everyone, whether he's a starter or coming off the bench."

Jefferson made 10 of his first 14 field-goal attempts, and also contributed a game-high 13 rebounds. Walker added seven assists for the Bobcats.

Jefferson scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first quarter, after which the Bobcats led 25-22. But they actually extended their lead to 12 in the second quarter, as Neal scored nine points.

"That boy can score. He made plays, that's all," Jefferson said of Neal. "If he can play like that, it's going to give a big lift to the second unit. With him hitting 3s like that, that's just going to open up the paint for guys like me who like to attack it."

Josh McRoberts added 15 points for Charlotte, including a key 3-pointer with 6:15 left at the shot-clock buzzer to extend Charlotte's lead to 90-82 after Denver had cut it to five.

 

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