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Walker’s poise pays off for Bobcats

AP

The Charlotte Bobcats have relied heavily on Al Jefferson to put them in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

On Saturday night, they proved they could win without their veteran center having a big night.

“It shows that we have other guys that can step up,” point guard Kemba Walker said.

With Jefferson double-teamed most of the night, Walker elevated his game, pouring in 31 points to help the Bobcats defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 92-89 for their fourth win in five nights.

Charlotte is 4-0 since the All-Star break, marking its longest winning streak since March 2011.

The Bobcats won despite Jefferson being held to just six points — tying a season-low — on 2-for-13 shooting. Jefferson came in having scored 29 or more points in eight of his last 11 games and at least 20 points in 17 of the last 19.

Charlotte used an 18-3 run in the fourth quarter to break open a tight game and then held on down the stretch with Walker making four free throws in the final 25 seconds to snap Memphis’ four-game win streak. It was the second straight night Walker hit four free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal a victory.

“I shoot so many free throws in practice I’m just thinking, “Hey, make them,’ ” said Walker, who was 10 of 10 from the foul line.

The Bobcats had lost the second night of a back-to-back eight straight times before winning two this week.

“To win four in a row against good teams and to play this well in a game like that, that was hard fought, you have to feel good about it,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.

But now the Bobcats face a four-game stretch against the NBA’s four best teams — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami and Indiana — with the first three games on the road.

The Grizzlies were led by Mike Conley, who had 16 points, but twice missed 3-point attempts when he had a chance to tie the game on Memphis’ final possession.

Timberwolves 121, Jazz 104

In Salt Lake City, Kevin Love had 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his first career triple-double to help Minnesota cruise past Utah.

Hawks 107, Knicks 98

In Atlanta, Mike Scott scored a career-high 30 points, Jeff Teague added 28 and the Hawks snapped an eight-game losing streak by beating New York.

Carmelo Anthony finished with 35 points for the Knicks, who blew a double-digit, third-quarter lead for the second straight night.

Wizards 94, Pelicans 93

In Washington, Nene made the go-ahead dunk with 0.9 seconds left and matched a season high with 30 points to propel the Wizards past New Orleans.

Pacers 110, Bucks 100

In Milwaukee, Paul George scored 32 points and David West tied a season high with 30, helping Indiana hang on to beat the Bucks.

Lance Stephenson added 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Pacers.

Kings 105, Celtics 98

In Sacramento, Rudy Gay scored eight of his 22 points over the final six minutes, Isaiah Thomas added 21 points and matched his career high with 12 assists, and the Kings beat Boston.

Warriors 93, Nets 86

In Oakland, Jermaine O’Neal had season highs of 23 points and 13 rebounds and Stephen Curry banked in a big 3-pointer in the final minute to finish with 17 points for Golden State.

Mavericks 113, Pistons 102

In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points, Vince Carter added 18 and Dallas held off Detroit.

Josh Smith led the Pistons with 32 points.