CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Al Jefferson thinks he's finally figured out the NBA game.
``Hey, it's taken me eight years to realize that if I pass the ball outside and guys hit open shots, it helps free me up,' Jefferson. ``I guess better late than never.'
Jefferson, the focal point of Utah's offense, had 31 points and nine rebounds as the Jazz defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 99-93 on Wednesday night.
The Jazz controlled the paint - outscoring the Bobcats 54-36 and outrebounding them 43-34.
Jefferson was 11 of 19 from the field and hit all but one of his 10 foul shots in a dominating performance inside.
Paul Millsap scored 16 points while Derrick Favors added 14 points for the Jazz, who won their second straight on the road. The victory helped pull the Jazz back to .500 at 19-19.
``Al was doing a good job of passing the ball tonight,' Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. ``We need to touch that thing inside before we take our jump shots. That's who we are. We go through him and need him to make the right plays. ... We know if they come and double him we want to make sure we space the floor and make the right plays.'
Leading by four at halftime, the Jazz began pounding away at the Bobcats, taking advantage of Jefferson's experience against Charlotte's rookie center Bismack Biyombo.
Jefferson seemed to toy with Biyombo at times, palming the ball with one hand before making almost uncontestable moves in the low post. He continually got Biyombo to go after ball fakes and eventually the rookie fouled out.
``He times his shot to where I don't know when he's shooting,' Biyombo said. ``You have to play smarter and learn not to get in foul trouble. It still happens sometimes. But you have to learn from it.'
As the Bobcats made adjustments and began rolling help to Biyombo's side, Jefferson simply dished outside to teammates like Raja Bell, who knocked down a pair of jumpers to give the Jazz a 65-50 advantage in the third quarter.
Jefferson led the Jazz with five assists.
Biyombo, who blocked seven shots and held Dwight Howard to 15 points Tuesday night in Charlotte's 100-84 win over the Orlando Magic, was visibly upset with his inability to defend Jefferson.
On a few occasions he slapped his hands together in disgust as he headed down court after giving up easy baskets.
``He's a young talent and he's raw,' Jefferson said of Biyombo. ``He's going to get better. He's 19 years old. He's got a long way to go. But I can guarantee you the next time I play him it won't be as easy. If he's like me, he holds grudges and he'll remember.'
Corey Maggette scored 25 points to lead the Bobcats, who failed in their quest to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. It's the third straight 20-point game for Maggette, who's averaging 19.7 points per game over the last 10 games.
Kemba Walker had 19 points and Byron Mullens added 16 for Charlotte.
The Bobcats trailed 80-64 entering the fourth quarter, but never really challenged for the lead despite getting within six points at the end.
What might have been the biggest news for the Bobcats is who didn't play.
The Bobcats didn't activate Boris Diaw, while Tyrus Thomas, Gana Diop and Matt Carroll did not play. Those four players take up a combined $27.1 million under this year's salary cap.
Instead, Silas played his younger players as the team continues to look toward the future.
It's the first time all four have sat out.
``Nobody said anything to me about how much a guy should play or when he should play or whenever,' Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. ``That's on me. I'm just trying to play guys that are out there trying to get it done. The one thing I learned tonight - and this is kind of a new team - is we've got to have the energy level up and play defense. We can't sit back and let their offense go.'
After the game Thomas was asked what this means for his future. He has three years left on his deal worth $26 million.
``I'm the first guy in every morning and still working and bettering myself,' said an upbeat Thomas. ``I'm not troubled by any of this. I've started for playoff teams and not started on bad teams. It's the business.'
Notes: This was the first time Jazz assistant coach Sydney Lowe coached in the state since being fired as North Carolina State's head coach. ... Mullens, the Bobcats' 7-foot backup center who's not especially known for his defense, had a career-high five blocks. ... This was the third 30-point game this season for Jefferson. .. Over the last three games, Maggette is shooting 92 percent (38 of 41) from the free-throw line.
The Associated Press News Service
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