Jefferson lifts Bobcats past Knicks, 108-98
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By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Unable to get much lift off his sore right ankle, Bobcats center Al Jefferson figured it was time to make an adjustment.
So Jefferson made a conscious decision to try a new technique Tuesday night, jumping off both feet instead of just his right.
He never expected the results he got.
Jefferson scored a season-high 35 points, Kemba Walker had 12 of his 25 in the fourth quarter and Charlotte snapped the New York Knicks' five-game winning streak with a 108-98 victory.
"It worked for me tonight - on my jump shot, on my jump hook. I just decided to try to do something different to get some lift," said Jefferson, who acknowledged for the first time he'll likely need surgery on the ankle after the season.
It was Jefferson's best game since joining the Bobcats as a free agent this past offseason and more of what he envisioned when he signed a three-year, $41 million contract. When he wasn't dominating in the low post, he was kicking the ball out to the wing and the Bobcats were knocking down shots, hitting 6 of 14 on 3-point attempts.
It came at a great time.
Coach Steve Clifford said he didn't want any doubt to slip into his players' minds after they'd lost three straight and eight of their last 10 games.
"That's a professional win," Clifford said. "That's a win you can get on a plane and feel good about."
Walker was 4 of 4 from the field in the fourth quarter, including 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. He also finished with seven rebounds and five assists.
The Bobcats benefited from the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had eight points and seven rebounds after sitting out the last 19 games with a broken left hand. He also brought some needed energy on the defensive end.
"You can see value of having a guy like Kidd-Gilchrist," Clifford said. "People don't always understand the energy and intensity and those kinds of things. Those are skills."
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks (15-23) with 20 points and six rebounds.
Tyson Chandler returned to the lineup after missing four games with bronchitis, but wasn't much of a factor. Chandler made both shots from the field and finished with five points and four rebounds in 16 1/2 minutes.
"I felt decent out there," Chandler said. "I was a little winded the first half but after that I kind of got my lungs together."
J.R. Smith was benched for the second time in four games.
With Chandler limited, the Knicks had a tough time shutting down Jefferson.
"We haven't been hitting the bigs," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "We're letting our bigs play guys one-on-one and (Jefferson) got going and by the time we started to double team, he had already felt good about his game and that didn't even help either."
The Bobcats led throughout the second half, but the Knicks cut the lead to four with less than 11 minutes remaining.
That's when Walker began to take over.
After a timeout, Walker scored a layup on a nice one-handed feed from Jefferson, who had drawn double coverage. Walker then knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, including a 29-footer from the top of the key to beat the shot clock. Jefferson added an inside jumper to push the lead the 13 and the Knicks never challenged again.
Jefferson finished 14 of 20 from the field and had eight rebounds.
"You could tell from the first time he touched the ball he was on the attack," Clifford said.
After giving up 23 second-chance points in a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, the Bobcats limited the Knicks to just four Tuesday night and led 55-46 at the break.
Jefferson had a huge first half, scoring 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting as the Bobcats outscored the Knicks 22-14 in the paint.
Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 3. He missed a few layups, but provided a needed presence on defense. The Bobcats were 7-12 without Kidd-Gilchrist in the lineup.
The Knicks clearly looked fatigued on the second night of a back-to-back.
"I'm not using that as an excuse but we were a step slow defensively in terms of our rotations," Woodson said. "We scored enough points. 98 points is more than enough points. This team averages 93 points and we gave up 108 points so our defense was non-existent. You just can't do that, especially on the road."
NOTES: Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams of the NFL's Carolina Panthers were in the crowd. ... Amare Stoudemire had an embarrassing turnover when he threw a pass to no one in particular and knocked over a woman's drink in the front row. ... In the fourth quarter, a portion of Knicks fans on hand for the game began chanting Smith's name, but to no avail.
Updated January 14, 2014