Center Al Jefferson dominated the paint to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to a 109-87 home victory over the Indiana Pacers, whose lead in the Eastern Conference over the Miami Heat has dwindled to just 1 1/2 games.
Jefferson ended Wednesday night's game with 34 points and eight rebounds and completely dominated his match-up against Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who finished with four points and four boards in just 22 minutes of action.
Point guard Kemba Walker scored 19 points and Josh McRoberts and Chris Douglas-Roberts contributed 12 apiece for the Bobcats, who won their fifth consecutive game at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
The first half was a see-saw affair in which the Bobcats raced out to a 20-point lead at the end of the first quarter only to have that advantage shrink to just nine points at the intermission.
But Jefferson's play in the second half was too much for the Pacers to handle.
Indiana was led by Evan Turner's 22 points, while point guard George Hill scored 17 and Lance Stephenson added 12.
Pacers star Paul George had a miserable night, scoring just two points on 0-of-9 shooting from the field and committing five turnovers.
The Pacers (46-15) have set themselves the goal of finishing the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, but after Wednesday night's loss their lead over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat has dwindled to just 1 1/2 games and the two squads are now even in the loss column.
Miami did not play Wednesday night, but will be back in action on Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs in a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.
In other action on a busy Wednesday night in the NBA, the reeling New York Knicks salvaged some pride with a 118-106 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the red-hot Houston Rockets topped the Orlando Magic 101-89, the Washington Wizards defeated the Utah Jazz 104-91, and the Golden State Warriors routed the Boston Celtics 108-88.
The Chicago Bulls defeated the Detroit Pistons 105-94, the Brooklyn Nets topped the Memphis Grizzlies 103-94, the Denver Nuggets edged the Dallas Mavericks 115-110, the Sacramento Kings cruised past the Milwaukee Bucks 116-102, and the Portland Trail Blazers trounced the Atlanta Hawks 102-78. EFE