For the playoffs to truly become a reality for the second time in Charlotte Bobcats’ history, standout player Al Jefferson thinks there can’t be any more missteps like Friday night.

Sure, the Bobcats won 90-87 over the New Orleans Pelicans in front of 15,867 at Time Warner Cable Arena, but Charlotte tempted fate – and then some – in winning.

There was a protracted offensive slump, some defensive breakdowns and critical missed free throws in the final minutes.

So, while the Bobcats (26-30) were delighted to win their third straight game for only the second time this season, Jefferson knew they were fortunate.

“It feels good” to win, said Jefferson, whose 33-point game was his seventh in the past 11 contests. “But if we want to be the team that we’ve set out to be, we can’t allow stuff like that to happen in the fourth quarter.”

After building a game-high 79-66 lead with 8:09 to play, Charlotte went six straight possessions without scoring.

Meanwhile, New Orleans knocked down two big 3-pointers in the final 4 1-2 minutes in addition to three buckets in the paint.

Then, after Charlotte got what appeared to be game-clinching stops, Jefferson missed one free throw and Kemba Walker three in the final 39.3 seconds of the game.

“I think when we struggled on the offensive end, we forgot what to do on the defensive end,” Jefferson said.

In the end, Walker drained four free throws in the final 8.9 seconds and Josh McRoberts stripped New Orleans’ Brian Roberts near midcourt before he had a chance to hoist a potential tying 3-pointer to wrap up the victory.

“Kemba missed two, but he made four big ones down the stretch, so it worked out for us,” Jefferson said of the Bobcats, who made 25 of 36 free throws overall.

Charlotte took the lead midway the first quarter and led by eight after one quarter, 11 at halftime and nine after three quarters before holding the game-high 13-point lead.

New Orleans (22-32) would tie the score at 84 with 1:30 to play on Roberts’ contested 3-pointer, but got only three free throws the rest of the way.