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NBA: Neal returns, helps Bobcats beat Bucks

Bucks guard Brandon Knight takes a shot against Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker on Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Milwaukee. Knight and Walker each scored 21 points as the Bobcats won 101-92. (Benny Sieu / USA TODAY Sports)

MILWAUKEE — Former Bucks guard Gary Neal was greeted by a smattering of boos in his return to Milwaukee, but he was the hero for the Charlotte Bobcats in a 101-92 victory on Sunday afternoon.

Neal’s 3-pointer with 1:06 left sealed Charlotte’s fourth win in a row and 14th road victory of the season. He finished with 18 points, three behind guard Kemba Walker’s team-leading 21.

The hostility from the home crowd stemmed mainly from Neal’s recent remark to the San Antonio Express-News that he was playing “real basketball” with the Bobcats. Neal defended his comment before the game, claiming it was about himself rather than a slight aimed at the Bucks.

“I’m a Bobcat now, so I’m focused and concentrating on my house now, and that is in Charlotte,” Neal said. “We finished the game well, we executed the last three minutes and we were able to come away with a win, a big win.”

Milwaukee guard Ramon Sessions and forward Jeff Adrien continued their improved play against their former team. Sessions led the Bucks in bench points with 18, his highest total since joining the team, and Adrien came on strong late to finish with 12 points and continue a career-best streak of four games with 10 points or more.

“We’re right there in these games,” Adrien said. “We’ve just got to learn how to finish them. Just got to make those plays at the end of the game. The game’s not won in the first or second quarters, it’s really won in the fourth.”

Bucks guard Brandon Knight tied Walker for the game-high with 21 points and said his team showed a “little lack of effort” late.

“You have to give yourself a chance to win by getting stops in the fourth quarter — consecutive stops,” Knight said. “I think they scored on their last four out of five possessions, so it’s tough to win games in the fourth quarter — in the last four minutes — if you don’t get stops.”

Sessions and Knight paced the Bucks to a 50-46 halftime lead with 12 points each. The Bobcats trailed at the break despite shooting 54.8 percent from the field. They turned the ball over 10 times, though, in the first 24 minutes.

Walker led Charlotte with 12 first-half points and guard Gerald Henderson added 10.

After scoring just four points in the first half, forward Al Jefferson keyed a Charlotte rally with 10 third-quarter points, giving the Bobcats the lead three different times. While posting a solid 20-point, seven-rebound effort, Jefferson’s streak of games with 25 or more points and 10 or more rebounds ended at three.

“I had to wake up,” Jefferson said. “I had to get my body going. It was terrible out there. We knew we had to get to our defense because that’s what’s been getting us through these tough games all year long.”

Neal put the Bobcats up by four with two free throws late in the third quarter, but Adrien scored on a contested layup to cut Milwaukee’s deficit to 76-74 heading into the fourth quarter.

Neal’s 10 points in the final 12 minutes helped the Bobcats pull away late and complete a sweep of the four-game season series between the teams.

With the win, Charlotte continued to hold down the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and now sits 1 1/2 games behind the sixth-place Brooklyn Nets.

Milwaukee lost its fourth game in a row after being formally eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday.

Charlotte 101, Milwaukee 92 Charlotte    23    23    30    25    —    101

Milwaukee    28    22    24    18    —    92

CHARLOTTE (101) A.Jefferson 10-17 0-0 20, McRoberts 3-7 0-0 9, Walker 7-13 5-6 21, Henderson 6-7 0-0 14, Kidd-Gilchrist 4-6 1-2 9, Neal 5-6 6-6 18, Ridnour 1-5 0-0 2, C.Zeller 1-1 2-4 4, Douglas-Roberts 0-3 0-0 0, Biyombo 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 39-68 14-18 101.

MILWAUKEE (92) Pachulia 3-9 2-4 8, Knight 9-21 0-0 21, Henson 6-15 0-0 12, Middleton 3-12 0-0 8, Wolters 5-7 0-0 11, Sessions 7-14 3-5 18, Antetokounmpo 0-4 2-2 2, Adrien 4-6 4-5 12, Udoh 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 37-89 11-16 92.

3-Point Goals Charlotte 9-20 (McRoberts 3-5, Henderson 2-3, Neal 2-3, Walker 2-5, Douglas-Roberts 0-2, Ridnour 0-2), Milwaukee 7-18 (Knight 3-7, Middleton 2-7, Wolters 1-1, Sessions 1-2, Antetokounmpo 0-1). Fouled out None. Rebounds Charlotte 44 (A.Jefferson 7), Milwaukee 46 (Pachulia 9). Assists Charlotte 26 (Walker 8), Milwaukee 24 (Knight 7). Total Fouls Charlotte 16 (Douglas-Roberts 5), Milwaukee 17 (Wolters 4). A—14,536.