The gesture was cute but the result not so much: Late in the fourth quarter some fans started chanting “MVP!” as Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson stepped to the foul line.

Miss…and miss. But that’s OK, Jefferson said following a 105-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets – he felt the love.

“Charlotte fans have been patient with me all season,” Jefferson said, referencing his early ankle sprain. “I think now they’re getting the Al Jefferson they knew was coming. They’ve been great fans.”

Those fans are being rewarded. This was the seventh straight victory at Time Warner Cable Arena. At 30-34 the Bobcats look headed to their second playoff appearance in franchise history.

Monday they got 26 points, 13 rebounds and four assists from Jefferson and 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds from point guard Kemba Walker. The X-factor was Gary Neal off the bench.

Acquired in a trade-deadline deal, Neal was brought in to prop up the bench scoring. He sure did Monday with 19 points off 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

But it was the subtler ball-movement aspects of Neal’s game that coach Steve Clifford praised, noting how Neal found Chris Douglas-Roberts and Walker for baskets in the pick-and-roll.

Jefferson said it’s simple, really – Neal brings veteran savvy to a young squad in a playoff race.

“That boy can score and he can make plays,” Jefferson said. “He has experience – he’s been to the Finals (with the San Antonio Spurs). The kind of all-around player we needed.”

Neal was extraneous as a Milwaukee Buck and missed the juice involved in a playoff race. He and point guard Luke Ridnour immediately went into the rotation after the trade.