CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Al Jefferson had 33 points and 10 rebounds, and the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 90-87 Friday night for their third straight victory since the All-Star break.
The Bobcats overcame some shoddy free throw shooting in the final minute to win for the seventh time in the last 10 games.
Charlotte had missed four of six free throws in the final minute before Kemba Walker knocked down four foul shots in the final 9 seconds to put the Bobcats up by three. The Pelicans had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Josh McRoberts stripped Brian Roberts of the ball at midcourt and time expired.
Jefferson has scored 29 points or more in eight of his last 11 games and at least 20 points in 17 of the last 19.
Rookie Cody Zeller chipped in with a career-high 13 points for the Bobcats.
Roberts had 20 points and Anthony Davis added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Pelicans, who have lost four of their last five games.
The Bobcats led by double digits for most of the second half, but went cold midway through the fourth quarter.
The Pelicans clawed back behind Roberts, who knocked down a fall-away 3-pointer to tie the game at 84 with 1:30 left.
It became a free throw shooting contest from there.
Walker, who was 7 of 10 from the foul line for the game, hit two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to put Charlotte up by three. New Orleans didn't have any timeouts left and Roberts was getting ready to attempt a long 3-pointer when McRoberts' swiped the ball away.
Charlotte entered the game as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bobcats wasted no time exploiting the matchup of Jefferson on Alexis Ajinca, repeatedly dumping the ball in the low post. Jefferson had 14 points in the first quarter. The Pelicans also tried Greg Stiemsma and Anthony Davis on Jefferson, but nobody had much success stopping him.
The trio combined for 13 fouls.
The Bobcats' defense, which came in ranked fifth in the league in points allowed, limited the Pelicans to a season-low 32 points in the first half to take an 11-point lead at the break.
There was a comical moment in the fourth quarter after an errant pass. A fan retrieved the ball and fired it back to the official on the court just as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was getting up from his seat on the bench. The ball hit Kidd-Gilchrist in the back of the head, causing him to flinch.
NOTES: Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said newly acquired Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour will not play until next week as the NBA has yet to approve the deal. Both arrived in Charlotte on Friday and watched the game from behind the team bench. ... Gerald Henderson is one of only eight guards in the NBA that has started every game this season for his team. ... Charlotte was 25 of 36 from the foul line; the Pelicans were 8 of 11. ... The Pelicans had won four straight in Charlotte coming into the game.