(Photo Courtesy Chuck Burton – AP)
Just days after 2 nail-biting losses against the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks, the Bobcats returned to the court Friday night appearing refocused at home in a 105-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
While 6 Cats would score in double-figures, Jeff Taylor’s star would shine brightest – something the team hopes will become a recurring theme as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is sidelined four-to-six weeks with a broken left hand. Taylor, who is known as a versatile defensive stopper, paced the Cats with 20 points on eight of 16 shooting from the floor and eight rebounds.
Coach Steve Clifford praised what Taylor can bring to the table in MKG’s absence after the game. “He's at that age where guys make the biggest jump. Certainly he has the size, athleticism and intelligence to get his game to the next level. And he's a hard worker,” he said, according to an Associated Press report.
Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, Ramon Sessions and Cody Zeller all scored in double-figures.
The Cats extended their league-leading streak of not allowing more than 100 points for 13 games. After a high-scoring first-quarter, in which the Cats led 36-33, it appeared that streak was in jeopardy. But they clamped down the rest of the game, allowing no more than 21 points in each of the three remaining quarters. The 76ers only shot 40.2 percent from the field with Tony Wroten leading the team with 21 points.
In addition to the loss of Kidd-Gilchrist, the Cats will play without backup center Bismack Biyombo for an indefinite period of time after he sustained a right ankle sprain in the first half. With two of their younger players out, look for Jeff Adrien to get more playing time in the frontcourt and Ben Gordon, who played 10 minutes last night, logging more minutes in the backcourt.
As the Eastern Conference continues its publicized struggles, last night’s victory gives the Cats a measuring stick for how they must play to make the playoffs – even if it’s a bottom seed in a miserable conference.
The Cats and 76ers entered Friday night’s game as the eighth and ninth seeds, respectively. As projected playoff teams – the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers – continue to struggle, it’s becoming a possibility that the Cats will be in the playoff chase for much of the season. At 9-11, the Cats are hovering around the .500 mark, usually good enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference in a typical season.
Another measuring stick will enter Time Warner Cable Arena Monday in the form of the Golden State Warriors.