With 25 points and 16 rebounds Al Jefferson continued his dominance on the low block but it was the Bobcats bench that blew this game wide open. Led by newly acquired guard Gary Neal (19 points) Charlotte's second unit outscored the Wolves 47-32 in the ballgame.
As the first quarter ended the two teams were tied at 33 apiece but it was Neal's 11 second quarter points that helped give the Bobcats a 65-53 lead at the half. "The whole second group just came out with an attack mentality and when we're making shots it's gonna be tough on defenses," Neal said after the game.
His energy was infectious as Cody Zeller (10 pts 8 rebs) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (10 pts 4 rebs) both played extended minutes, keeping the Wolves at arms length the entire night. "This was a total team win," Zeller added "and it always feels good to get a victory in front of our home crowd."
Charlotte came out in the second half and opened up an 18 point lead on Minnesota, never allowing the advantage to get below double digits from that point on. Besides scoring the basketball at will, the Bobcats defense cranked it up in the third and fourth quarters essentially closing the door on any comeback attempts.
The focus of the Bobcats defense was T-Wolves All-Star forward Kevin Love who was held scoreless in the second half after racking up 18 points in the first. "Coach (Steve Clifford) just made great defensive adjustments," Neal said "and we were able to keep Kevin from doing what he likes to do in the second half."
The Bobcats (32-34) will now prepare for a visit to Milwaukee to face the Bucks, Neal and Luke Ridnour's former team on Sunday before coming home to host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Charlotte has a 4 1/2 game lead on the Hawks for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoff standings with 16 regular season games left to play.