CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats melted down at the end of regulation. They’d blown a nearly certain win. They needed a calming influence.
Good thing Stephen Jackson was there.
In his return from a one-game suspension for berating officials and hours after he sent a letter apologizing to fans, Jackson kept his cool when the Bobcats needed it.
He scored 25 points and hit four straight free throws in the final 31 seconds of overtime as the Bobcats recovered from blowing a big lead to beat the weary New Jersey Nets 91-84 on Friday night.
“I’m not going to run from the ball,” Jackson said. “I have confidence.”
Boris Diaw added a career-best 16 rebounds to go along with 11 points and eight assists, and four other players scored in double figures for the Bobcats, who blew a seven-point lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation.
But thanks to a 62-48 rebounding advantage, Charlotte snapped a two-game losing streak despite 36 percent shooting. The Nets shot 32 percent.
“You know, they’re selling Dr. Naismith’s rules coming up,” coach Larry Brown said. “I think he’d be a little suspect in thinking this was the game he invented.”
Travis Outlaw scored 21 points and hit two free throws to force OT and Charlotte native Anthony Morrow added 19 for the Nets, who were without injured Devin Harris and got little from Brook Lopez.
New Jersey has lost three straight, playing four OT periods in the last two games.
“In overtime, it’s the same old stuff,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We can’t run our offense properly and then it affects our defense. One of these days when it burns us deep down inside we’ll maybe learn from it.”
The Nets’ unlikely rally was helped when Gerald Wallace missed two free throws with 11.7 second remaining and Charlotte leading 79-77. The rebound bounced off Lopez out of bounds, but Wallace then collided with Outlaw on Diaw’s dangerous inbound pass and was called for a foul.
Outlaw hit the tying free throws with 9.2 seconds left before Charlotte’s D.J. Augustin missed a fadeaway at the buzzer.
Tyrus Thomas then scored four of his 12 points in OT for Charlotte and the Nets’ big man was silenced. Lopez, facing constant double teams, managed just two rebounds and shot 3 of 10 from the floor.
“I tried to get him running a little bit more and speed the game up a bit,” said Jordan Farmar, filling in for Harris. “He got 10 shots in an overtime game, got to the free-throw line a few times. That’s a good game plan. He’s a good basketball player so we have to step it up.”
Jackson did, hitting 12 of 13 free throws after getting nearly a week off.
He was kicked out of Saturday’s loss at Milwaukee in the first quarter for his angry outburst and suspended from Wednesday’s loss in New Orleans.
A contrite Jackson, who was fined $50,000 for verbally abusing the officials earlier last month, sent a letter to Bobcats season-ticket holders Friday afternoon apologizing and vowing to “adjust my emotions on the floor.”
Jackson rarely said a word to the officials and added five rebounds and six assists.
“It’s still hard for me. I’m not going to change overnight,” he said. “But I know what I have to do to in order to do the right thing for my teammates and the fans and that’s just play basketball.”
The Nets played their second straight game without Harris, who made the trip despite his strained left knee and even began discussing playing with Johnson on Thursday night.
“He ruled that out very quickly,” Harris said, smiling.
Without Harris and two nights after a triple-overtime loss to Oklahoma City, the Nets came out with little energy. The Bobcats weren’t much better in an ugly 33-32 first half as Lopez was held without a field goal or rebound.
Charlotte used a 21-9 third-quarter run to take a big lead, but then needed Jackson down the stretch.
“I love it. Please foul me,” Jackson said. “I know that nine out of ten times when I go out there I’m going to make it.”
Notes: Bobcats G Gerald Henderson (knee) missed his 10th straight game. … Nets G Terrence Williams had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists Thursday in his debut in the NBA Development League. “His attitude seems good,” Johnson said. “He’s down there working hard.” … Johnson said he held out rookie F Derrick Favors from the overtimes Wednesday because he’s “not quite ready for that” and wants to see more energy. “I told him his name is Derrick. Before I get to ‘rick, he should already be at the scorer’s table ready to go in the game,” Johnson said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)