Getting used to the idea of the Charlotte Bobcats in the playoffs is hard enough, but getting these kind of dominant performances from Al Jefferson, who has done incredibly well for his new team this season, pulling off another huge game in a 116-111 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets.
And while no one seems to be shivering with fear at the prospect of meeting the Bobcats, anyone who isn’t Miami or Indiana should be worried about a team that can defend very well and has a nice small man – big man duo to worry about. The Bobcats are 7th in the East, but they can rise quite quickly to a place which might actually put them in a position to feel good about winning their first ever playoff series.
Jefferson had 35 points and 15 rebounds and the small-ball Nets simply had no answer for him in the paint or outside of it, using some illegal defense to stop him at times which went unnoticed by the referees. Kemba Walker had 20 points and 12 assists but he needed 21 field goal attempts to get there. The late game heroes for the Bobcats were Josh McRoberts with 12 points and one huge reverse dunk to give Charlotte the lead early on in extra time, and a big three pointer from Chris Douglas-Roberts, finishing with 16 points, that clinched the victory against a Nets team that went through three consecutive overtime games.
The Nets had Deron Williams with 29 points, Mirza Teletovic with 22 and Joe Johnson scoring 18. The three of them combined to shoot 15-of-30 from beyond the arc. The problem was other players not stepping up, but it was mostly their inability to hold on to Jefferson on defense, leaving openings for others. If the Bobcats (16-of-23 from the line) would have done better on free throws, we might not have had overtime at all.
It’s late March, and the only basketball people in North Carolina have to care about is NBA, surprising as that sounds. The Bobcats haven’t clinched their postseason spot yet, but they’re on their way to get there. It’s been a few very rough years for those who have followed the team, not to mention some players like Gerald Henderson that have been through a rough rebuilding process, that included a lot of losing.
Jefferson isn’t here just for one season, and the Bobcats need to hope that this time their owner isn’t going to feel like breaking up the team all of a sudden like he did in the season after making the playoffs for the first time. With Jefferson as the proven veteran and young guys like Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist, the Bobcats have a solid foundation. They’ve gotten rid of the Gordon contract and will have cap space to bring in players who can improve them, not just sustain their success. I’m not sure if the big plan was making the playoffs in 2014, but there’s nothing wrong with some premature success that doesn’t hurt anyone. Those trying to figure out what goes on through Michael Jordan’s mind need to hope that it’s going to be a lasting thing this time.