BOSTON — Charlotte’s Al Jefferson got his usual nice round of applause from Boston fans during pregame introductions. Then he showed why they liked him so much when he wore green.
Jefferson was a tough matchup for Boston’s inside players, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Bobcats to an 89-83 victory Wednesday night that snapped the Celtics’ four-game winning streak.
In his second game back after missing five straight with a bruised right ankle, Boston’s 2004 first-round pick helped Charlotte hold off a few late charges by the Celtics.
Jefferson, who was taken 15th overall by the Celtics and played three seasons in Boston, was part of the deal in the summer of 2007 that brought Kevin Garnett to the Celtics from Minnesota.
“He’s an elite low-post scorer and he’s a much, much better defender than I had realized,” Bobcats first-year coach Steve Clifford said of Jefferson. “But the thing that’s coming through now as you watch him is his competitiveness. He badly wants to win.”
Gerald Henderson had 13 points, Jeff Taylor 12 and Anthony Tolliver had 11 for Charlotte, which ended a two-game skid.
Jefferson said it was the first time he’s been on a team that beat the Celtics.
“A long time coming,” he said. “Been so close many times.”
Jefferson feels like he’s just getting his game back after being sidelined.
“I still missed a lot of shots I normally would make,” he said of his 8-of-17 shooting. “I’ve got to get in better shape. I know there’s a reason that I’m not in top shape. That’s the only bad thing about getting hurt in the beginning of the year.”
Jeff Green paced Boston with 19 points, and Jordan Crawford had 16 points and six assists.
“We made some runs but I never felt like that game – you sit over there and I’ve been through not a lot of NBA games, but a lot of basketball games, and there are certain games where you feel like the other team has got you in a little bit of a stranglehold,” Boston’s first-year coach Brad Stevens said. “That’s the way it was. They had their way for most of the night.”
Both teams were without key big men. Celtics forward Jared Sullinger was out with a bruised right knee and Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts missed the game for personal reasons.
It was Clifford’s second game back after having two stents placed in his heart last week.
One of the biggest ovations of the night came when free-agent first baseman Mike Napoli, a member of the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox, was shown on the Jumbotron in the opening quarter.
The Bobcats led 71-64 after three quarters. Boston twice closed to three midway in the fourth before Tolliver nailed a 3 with 5:37 to play.
Neither team scored for the next two minutes before Jefferson’s jumper pushed the Bobcats ahead by six with 2:36 left.
Green then converted a three-point play, getting Boston within 85-80 with 1:26 to go, but the Celtics struggled to score after missing 12 of their first 16 shots in the final quarter.
Crawford’s three-point play closed it to 85-83 with 32.5 seconds left, but Jefferson had a putback off Kemba Walker’s miss to seal it.
But Crawford felt like the Bobcats just played harder for most of the night.
“They beat us with effort. They beat us to all the loose balls and rebounds,” he said. “It’s not really (a game) to throw away. It’s one to look at to see where we can get better. We just started off slow and couldn’t get any loose balls.”