WASHINGTON — Al Jefferson had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Gerald Henderson went 6 for 9 in his return from a calf injury Wednesday night to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to a 98-85 win over the Washington Wizards.
Henderson finished with 13 points, and Kemba Walker’s 16 points included four consecutive free throws during a late fourth-quarter run for the Bobcats, who have won four of five and sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
John Wall scored 23 points to lead the Wizards, but he went scoreless in the fourth and received little help from his teammates. Washington had won eight of its previous 10 and began the day in fifth, one-half game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets.
Bobcats-Wizards late in the season is usually more about pingpong balls than playoffs, but Washington is closing in on its first postseason berth since 2008 and Charlotte is nearly there for the first time since 2010.
Fittingly, they were evenly matched, a good sign for their two meetings yet to come on March 31 and April 9.
Neither team led by more than six until Wall fouled Walker while Walker was attempting a 3-pointer with 4:34 to play. Walker was awarded three free throws, and Washington coach Randy Wittman was called for a technical foul after the second attempt.
Walker made the technical, then made the last of his quartet of free throws to put the Bobcats ahead 87-80.
Wall compounded matters for the Wizards by missing two free throws a half-minute later. Walker then hit a hang-in-the-air 3-pointer with the shot clock running down to make it a 10-point lead. The Bobcats closed the game with a 15-5 run.
Henderson missed the previous five games with a strained right calf, and his return — while welcome — had potential chemistry issues to the point where coach Steve Clifford called a pregame team meeting to address players’ roles going forward.
Henderson would start against the Wizards, Clifford told the team, but Chris Douglas-Roberts would continue to get substantial playing time based on matchups against certain opponents. Douglas-Roberts had played well in Henderson’s absence, scoring in double figures in four of five games.
Douglas-Roberts played 21 minutes off the bench Wednesday night and scored 10 points. Henderson, meanwhile, looked plenty healthy when he exploded for a one-handed jam in the first quarter.
Wall had the only sure hand for the Wizards. He went 10 for 19 from the field, while everyone else was 25 for 63. Perhaps a sign of Wall trying too hard: He got reckless trying for one-handed driving dunk late in the third quarter and was called for a charge as he crashed onto the floor.
Notes: Bobcats G Gary Neal, acquired last month in a trade, did not play due to “an internal team matter,” according to an announcement by the team. … Charlotte committed only two fouls in the first half. … Both teams shot 20 for 43 (46.5 percent) in the first half. … The Bobcats improved to 2-8 against Southeast Division opponents.
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