CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats are suddenly playing their best basketball of the season, and as a result their chances of making the playoffs are increasing by the day.
The Bobcats rolled past the Detroit Pistons 116-98 on Wednesday night, beating the Pistons for the second time in two nights and expanding their lead to 2 1/2 games over the Pistons in the fight for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Center Al Jefferson scored 29 points, and guard Kemba Walker added 24 points and a career-high 16 assists as the Bobcats raised their record to 25-30 and won for the third time in the last four games.
"No question, we're playing our best basketball of the season," Jefferson said. "That's why I'm able to do what I'm doing. We're playing well as a team, especially on the offensive end now. For the most part this year we've been in the Top 10 in defense, but now our offense is picking up. We're jelling on the offensive end, so now we've got to keep it up."
The Bobcats shot 51.2 percent from the field, raising their record to 7-0 when they shoot better than 50 percent. They also moved to 7-1 when scoring more than 100 points.
Walker credited the team's surge to the play of Jefferson, who fell one point shy of scoring 30 for the seventh time in the last 10 games. Jefferson missed nine games early in the season with an ankle injury, but he has been fully healthy for the last several weeks and he has been virtually unstoppable much of the time.
"We're all just getting acclimated to Al," Walker said. "Now, we know how to play with him, and we know how to play off him. He makes all the right plays so as long as we get him the basketball in the right spots, all we've got to be ready to do is make shots."
Jefferson had 19 of his points in the second half, when the Bobcats took control of the game. They led 53-47 at halftime, then opened the third quarter with a 17-3 spurt to pull out to a 20-point lead. They later led by as many as 22.
The Bobcats had won at Detroit 108-96 on Tuesday night behind Jefferson's 32 points and 12 rebounds. They had led the Pistons by just one-half game at the All-Star break.
"We've been ready to play as a team the past two nights," Walker said. "We came in after the All-Star break and had a great practice, and we were prepared to play some good games, which we did. So we want to continue to play well and just build from here."
The Bobcats also got 15 points from forward Josh McRoberts, 11 each from forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and guard Gerald Henderson, and 10 points and 10 assists from guard Ramon Sessions.
"It's tough to beat a good NBA team two nights in a row," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. "I would imagine in these situations playing back-to-back nights you usually wind up with a split. So these are big wins."
Detroit, which fell to 22-32, was led by guard Brandon Jennings with 20 points. Guard Rodney Stuckey scored 15, guard Will Bynum and forward Josh Smith scored 14 each, and forward Greg Monroe scored 13.
The Pistons shot just 42.2 percent from the field and as a result were outrebounded 49-31.
"I think we're one of the better rebounding teams in the league," Pistons interim coach John Loyer said. "It has to be a staple for us. Nights when we're not rebounding the ball at a high level, we're probably going to get outcomes like we had tonight."
Loyer downplayed being swept by a playoff rival on back-to-back nights.
"It's two games," he said. "When you have this many games left -- granted it's two we wanted to get. But we didn't get them so you move on and go to your next game plan and try to move on."
NOTES: The Bobcats' victory snapped a streak of five straight wins by the Pistons in Charlotte. ... The Pistons were assessed four technical fouls during the game. G Brandon Jennings picked up two in the final two minutes and was ejected. G Will Bynum received one, and C Andre Drummond the other. ... This was the third and final meeting between the teams this season. The Bobcats had already secured the tie-breaker advantage with their win in Detroit on Tuesday. ... The Bobcats' win at Detroit on Tuesday gave them 12 road wins this season, which is double their total for all of last season. The franchise record for road wins in a season is 13. ... The Pistons are now 1-3 under interim coach John Loyer. ... The Bobcats have not had C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) any this season, and have lost F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles) for the rest of the season. ... This was the start of a three-game home stand for the Bobcats and was the second game in a stretch of four games in five nights. They will host New Orleans on Friday and Memphis on Saturday. ... The Pistons will return home for a weekend pair, hosting Atlanta on Friday and Dallas on Saturday.