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Timberwolves-Bobcats Preview

AP - Sports

After ending a recent road slide, the Charlotte Bobcats can focus on extending their run of success at home.

The Bobcats go for an eighth straight home victory Friday night while trying to prevent the Minnesota Timberwolves from achieving their first four-game road win streak in five years.

Al Jefferson continued his stellar play with 26 points and 10 rebounds to help Charlotte (31-34) snap a four-game road skid with a 98-85 victory over Washington on Wednesday.

Winners of two straight and four of five, the seventh-place Bobcats moved within 2 1/2 games of the sixth-place Wizards in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte is trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since the franchise's only appearance in 2010.

"Just the opportunity to be playing to get into the playoffs. Now that we have the opportunity, why not go and grab it," guard Kemba Walker told the NBA's official website.

"I think we're starting to realize that we're a really good team. We're not the same Bobcats as the past."

The 2009-10 season also was the last time Charlotte won eight straight at home as part of a club-record nine-game run in December and January. The Bobcats have averaged 103.9 points and shot 46.5 percent over the last seven at home after scoring 92.8 per game and shooting 43.2 percent while going 11-14 prior to the streak.

Jefferson has averaged 27.7 points on 61.5 percent shooting in seven games overall, and 29.3 in three straight at home. He's also scored 26 or more in eight of nine on his home floor.

However, the ex-Timberwolves big man was held to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and pulled down seven boards during a 119-92 loss at Minnesota (32-31) on Jan. 10.

Jefferson's former Minnesota teammate Kevin Love finished with 19 and 14 rebounds in that contest after averaging 35.0 points and 17.3 boards in his previous three games against the Bobcats. Love last played in Charlotte on March 28, 2012, when he had 40 points and 19 rebounds during an 88-83 win that was only the Timberwolves' second in nine all-time road games against the Bobcats.

Averaging 32.0 points over his last eight away from home, Love will try to help Minnesota win four straight on the road for the first time since Jan. 3-19, 2009.

Though Minnesota is back over .500, it sits 10th in the West and 5 1/2 games behind Dallas for the final playoff spot.

"It's been a weird year to say the least," Love said. "We've had our ups and downs. We're capable of really good things, but the fact is we're on the outside looking in and don't have a lot of room to make mistakes right now."

Love had 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and Kevin Martin scored 26 as Minnesota concluded a 2-2 homestand with a 112-101 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday. The Timberwolves overcame 52.7 percent shooting from the lowly Bucks by scoring 30 points off 15 turnovers.

Charlotte guard Gary Neal is expected to play after he sat Wednesday for what was termed "an internal team issue." Neal has averaged 11.9 points in seven games since the Bobcats acquired him from Milwaukee last month.

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