CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats are turning into a difficult team to beat down the stretch, particularly at home.
The Bobcats extended their home winning streak to eight games Friday night with a 105-93 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, continuing to inch closer to clinching their second playoff appearance in franchise history.
"To me, to become a really good team, you have to win at home," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford.
They're doing that.
The Bobcats, currently the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, came in averaging 103.9 points and shooting 47 percent in their last seven homes games. They shot 48 percent against the Timberwolves.
Al Jefferson had 25 points and 16 rebounds to set a single-season franchise record with his 20th 20-point, 10-rebound game of the season and the Bobcats held Kevin Love scoreless in the second half.
"They brought me here to be a double-double guy, a 20-10 guy, and I'm just living up to my contract," said Jefferson, who inked a three-year, $40.5 million deal this past offseason.
Gary Neal, benched Wednesday for an "internal team matter," returned and provided a huge lift off the bench with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
He said his comfort level is improving since being acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks just before the NBA trade deadline.
"I've never been traded in the middle of the season before, so that has been tough," Neal said. "That is what I can bring to the team is scoring, but you also want to fit in. You don't want to come in with the second team and think that you can shoot all of the shots. It was a feeling-out process and so far I have done a good job."
Kevin Martin had 19 points to lead Minnesota.
Love had 18 points in the first half, but was 0 for 7 from the floor in the second half against Josh McRoberts and improving rookie Cody Zeller.
It didn't help that Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic left late in the third quarter with a sore right ankle. He missed most of February with an ankle issue.
"I was particularly tired and it was just a tough game from the start," Love said. "They were hitting a lot shots. They kept making shots and we didn't get any stops. ... I don't think I scored in the second half. It was a tough night for everybody."
Said McRoberts: "(Love) is going to hit all seven of those shots tomorrow even if he faces the same defense. When you're that good, as a defense you just try to make it tough for him to get to a spot he wants to get to."