Al Jefferson had an answer for the Wizards this time. After being held to just six points in the first meeting, a loss on his home floor in January, he dominated inside the paint with 26 points on 13-for-20 shooting and nine rebounds to send Washington to its second consecutive defeat and make the Eastern Conference playoff race that much tighter.
It was the first consecutive losses for the Wizards (33-31) since the All-Star break, and they've now slipped from the No. 5 spot to sixth after the Brooklyn Nets (33-30) upset the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. The Bobcats (31-34) had five players in double figures, including Kemba Walker with 16, Gerald Henderson 13, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 10 and Chris Douglas-Roberts off the bench added 10.
John Wall scored 18 of his team-high 23 points in the first half when he made 8 of 12 shots, but he began to force the issue after that and finished the game 2-for-7. He failed to score in the fourth quarter.
The other starters, Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal, Trevor Booker and Marcin Gortat, combined to shoot 15-for-42.
Turning point: The score was tied at 78 late in the fourth, and after Jefferson buried consecutive jump shots, Wall was called for fouling Walker on a three-point attempt with the shot clock almost expired. Walker made all three foul shots, and in between coach Randy Wittman was hit with a technical foul. Walker made that foul shot, too. When it was over, the Wizards trailed 87-80. Then Wall, a reliable foul shooter himself, missed his only two attempts. After Al Harrington's three-pointer with 8:30 left, the Wizards only had three field goals to end the game.
Key stats: The Bobcats won lopsided battles in fast-break points (11-2), in the paint (44-32) and were called for half the number of fouls (22-11). ... Andre Miller, in 14 minutes off the bench, led the Wizards with five assists. Wall only had four.
From the locker room: "They were more aggressive than we were all night, both ends of the floor. I thought the second half we got to dribbling too much and holding the ball too much. Whenever we have a night when we are one-to-one or close to that in assist-to-turnovers ... it's not good. Whether it's guys trying to do too much, we can't fall into that. You can get to a point where sometimes you try to do too much and we're not made that way." -- Wittman
"When you're not making shots you're usually making, you hesitate to take them. That's what happened to us at times. Moving the ball a little bit more and wasting more time on the shot clock and taking a tougher shot that we don't want to take and they wanted us to take." -- Wall
"That's my responsibility to take care of Al and he brought it today. He was ready. Right after the game he said, 'I was waiting for this game to get you back.' So I've just got to do better. I let him do too many things. I let him come to the middle easy. I've got to take that responsibility for that and I've got to do better next time. That's it. It was a humble night for me." -- Gortat on his matchup with Jefferson
"A whole different story now. Two teams trying to get to the playoffs. Two teams playing great basketball. Two teams who have changed the organization around. It is good to see, especially for us, especially for some of the guys that have been here who have been through the struggles. It feels good to finally be playing for something and racking up some wins." -- Walker on rivalry with Wizards.
Up next: The Wizards will practice at Verizon Center on Thursday before leaving for Orlando where they play the Magic on Friday (CSN, 7 p.m. ET).