CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats nearly blew an 18-point lead, missed key free throws and had a strategy decision backfire. The Minnesota Timberwolves roared back behind their new star, only to have a key turnover and a missed shot at the buzzer.
The two lottery-bound teams playing out the string didn't look pretty Tuesday night, but the end sure was interesting.
"It was closer than we wanted, but we are trying to learn how to win close games," Bobcats coach Sam Vincent. "As long as we come out with a 'W' in this kind of game, hopefully it's a learning experience for the guys."
Jefferson matched a career high with 40 points and had a chance to force overtime, but his open 19-footer bounced off the rim as time expired. The Timberwolves, who dropped to 5-33 on the road, turned it over on the previous possession when Randy Foye's pass for a cutting Jefferson bounced out of bounds.
"We should have scored on both of them," Wolves coach Randy Wittman said. "That's how you win games like that, by making plays down the stretch."
The Bobcats let the Timberwolves, who entered the night with the third-worst record in the NBA, back in the game with an anemic defense and poor execution.
Raymond Felton, who had 15 points and 11 assists, missed two free throws with 13 seconds and Charlotte leading 120-119. After Foye's turnover, Matt Carroll, who scored 22 points, hit his first free throw, but Vincent told him to intentionally miss the second with one second left.
The Timberwolves quickly got the rebound and a timeout with 0.7 seconds left.
"I was a little nervous doing it, but it worked," Carroll said. "I was surprised only three-tenths of a second went off."
Then Jefferson, who hit 18 of 25 shots, somehow got free on the inbounds play, but he couldn't get the baseline jumper to fall.
"It was a good play," Jefferson said. "I got an open shot. I just missed it."
It was part of a wild night for Jefferson, who overcome nearly nonexistent defense early in the game with an offense performance that was equaled only by his 40-point night against New Jersey on Jan. 27.
Ryan Gomes added 24 points and Foye had 19 for the Timberwolves, who lost their fifth straight game despite 52 percent shooting.
The reason was an awful start and horrible defense in a freewheeling game that featured plenty of open lanes to the basket and clean looks from the outside. Richardson was 5 of 8 on 3-pointers and Charlotte shot 62 percent despite playing a second straight game without Gerald Wallace, who said he's considering shutting things down for the rest of the season because of a strained groin.
Early on, Jefferson was Minnesota's biggest defensive liability.
Charlotte's Nazr Mohammed met little resistance from Jefferson in the post. Mohammed hit his first eight shots and Charlotte seemingly drove into the lane at will in building a 46-28 second-quarter lead.
"He's got to learn. He's a young kid," Wittman said. "We all get paid for 82 games, and there's no games you take off and just play through. We don't do it that way. You get embarrassed a little bit, and then he wakes up and plays pretty hard."
Jefferson led Minnesota's comeback when it was Charlotte's turn to play soft inside. Foye's layup with 7:10 left in the third quarter cut Charlotte's lead to 71-67.
Charlotte countered with a 10-0 run, only to watch Minnesota get within 104-102 on Foye's jumper with 7:23 left.
It came hours after Charlotte Bobcats Arena was officially renamed Time Warner Cable Arena, part of a complicated deal that got the Bobcats out of a poor local television contract with the cable company.
The small crowd and presumably larger TV audience saw two non-playoff teams entertain, if not impress.
"They had a chance to tie the game at the end," said Richardson, who had his 15th game of 30 or more points. "But we kept our composure tonight."
- An injury-filled end of the season has Wallace thinking he needs to take better care of his body. "I've been in the league seven years, and I've probably stretched twice," said Wallace, who indicated he'll likely do pilates and yoga this summer.
- The 121 points were a season high for Charlotte.
- Timberwolves G Sebastian Telfair, who has been out for more than a month with a sprained left ankle, could play Friday at Orlando.