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Bobcats' Jefferson gets first win over Celtics

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- Al Jefferson had reason to be just a bit happier than his Charlotte Bobcats teammates after Wednesday night's win over the Boston Celtics.

He finally beat his old team.

On his 12th try.

"First time, right? God, long time coming," the center said after his 22 points and 11 rebounds led the Bobcats to an 89-83 over Boston, his original NBA team, ending the Celtics' four-game winning streak. "So close many times. Got it tonight, though.

"First time I've ever beaten them since I left. Don't tell me how many years it's been; it would make me feel old. But yeah, it's the first I've beaten them."

He and his teammates prevailed largely because of Jefferson, who was playing in only his third game of the season, his second since coming back from an ankle injury. As he sat with his right foot in a bucket of ice after the game, Jefferson said he was tired, but it had to be a good tired.

Jefferson went to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the July 2007 deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston, and he subsequently moved on to the Utah Jazz and then Charlotte.

The 28-year-old Mississippi native played well from start to finish. His biggest play of the night came with 17.7 seconds left, when he converted a follow shot that all but wrapped up the outcome.

The Bobcats, who never trailed but almost blew a 16-point lead, ended a two-game losing streak and climbed back to .500 at 4-4.

Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $41 million free agent deal with Charlotte in July, said one of the things that brought him to his newest team was its new coach. Steve Clifford, a New England native, coached his second game Wednesday after missing just three days for a heart procedure. The pair quickly established a mutual admiration.

"He played with great intensity, great effort, I thought, at both ends of the floor," Clifford said. "I think he'll play ... I'm not going to say he'll play a lot better ... he's just good. ...

"If you watch him, he's a clinic in the low post. He has balance, footwork, fakes and great touch. But the thing that I'm seeing, as we go along here, is people always talked that his defense wasn't that good, but his defense has been pretty darn good and he's bright and he picks things up quickly."

Jefferson led five Bobcats in double figures. Guard Gerald Henderson had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and guard Jeff Taylor came off the bench to score 12 points.

Forward Jeff Green led the Celtics with 19 points but missed two free throws that could have brought his team to within a point with 7:26 remaining.

Guard Jordan Crawford had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds in the loss.

"We made some runs," rookie Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "There are certain games where you feel like the other team has got you in a little bit of a stranglehold and it's going to be hard to overcome it because of the way the game was going. ...

"That's the way it was, they had their way most of the night. They were very good."

Boston failed to lead in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

"It's definitely a good win for us, especially since they're a hot team, they won four in a row," said Bobcats rookie backup center Cody Zeller, who had eight points and nine rebounds, playing some of his time with Jefferson in a two-center set.

Asked about Jefferson, Zeller, the No. 4 pick in this year's draft, said, "He's been great for me, trying to teach me different things here and there. On the court, he opens up a lot ... for me just because the defense has to pay so much attention to him."

NOTES: Both teams were missing frontcourt players. Charlotte F Josh McRoberts was out for personal reasons (expected to return Friday) and Boston was without F Jared Sullinger (bruised knee). Sullinger is averaging 11.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. "Sully is probably our best back-to-the-basket player," coach Brad Stevens said before the game. ... The Celtics complete a three-game homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the same night the Bobcats visit the Cleveland Cavaliers. ... Wednesday was the nine-month anniversary of Boston G Rajon Rondo's knee surgery. He looked good during a pregame workout on the court.
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