Bobcats hold on to beat Raptors 100-95

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Al Jefferson sat at his locker pondering how the Charlotte Bobcats nearly surrendered a 30-point lead they held late in the third quarter.

“Of course we had to make it a game,” Jefferson said with a grin. “We couldn’t enjoy an easy win, right?”

It never seems that easy for the Bobcats.

Despite the big lead, Jefferson and Bobcats didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until Ramon Sessions knocked down two free throws with 1.6 seconds left to secure a 100-95 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

Jefferson became the first Bobcats player to record a double-double in the first quarter and finished with 22 points, 19 rebounds and a season-high seven assists and the Bobcats defeated the Raptors for the seventh straight time in Charlotte.

“The important thing is we came out of it with a win,” Jefferson said after the Bobcats withstood a furious Toronto rally that included several 3-pointers.

It was Charlotte’s first game without point guard Kemba Walker, whose streak of 190 straight games played - the second-longest in franchise history - was snapped. Walker sprained his ankle in a loss Saturday night to the Miami Heat.

But the Bobcats got more than enough from their two reserve point guards as Sessions and the seldom-used Jannero Pargo combined for 40 points on 10 of 17 shooting. Sessions started and had 23 points in 34 minutes and was 10 of 11 from the line.

“We knew they were going to make a run sooner or later, especially with how good they’ve been playing,” Sessions said. “We didn’t expect it to be that big of a run.”

DeMar DeRozan had 25 points and Kyle Lowry had 21 for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors, who fell to .500 after their fourth straight road loss.

The Raptors were down 71-41 with 4:37 left in the third quarter when they started to find some energy.

They outscored the Bobcats 28-0 on second-chance points, but it still wasn’t enough. Toronto twice had chances to tie the game in the final two minutes, but Lowry missed a free throw and Greivis Vasquez couldn’t connect on a long 3-pointer.

“To be a championship team or even think about the playoffs, you’ve got to play back-to-back, you have to play nicked up, you’ve got to play a little fatigued,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

“Right now, we have a bunch of guys who are giving into fatigue and nicked up. It’s a long season, but, again, you tell a lot about who you are in these situations.

“This was a gut-check game. In the fourth quarter, we turned it around. But it’s about what we did in the first three quarters that was disappointing.”

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