(Courtesy David Zalubowski – AP)
MKG’S stat line last night does not reflect his true value on the court – something that’s indicative of many of the second-year small forward’s games. Eight points, shooting four-for-10 on free throws, and six rebounds is a pedestrian game, especially for a second overall pick. Labeling MKG career thus far as a bust is – to a degree – not unfair.
Yet, plays like his game-saving block to preserve a 101-98 win against the Nuggets that shows what the Bobcats front office values in his game that don’t show up in the stats: hustle, hops and off the charts athleticism.
Off an inbounds play with less than 10 seconds in the fourth quarter, with the Nuggets down two, Evan Fournier drove the basket and for a contested reverse layup that didn’t drop. Timofey Mozgov went over the top of Al Jefferson, secured the board and was in position to lay it in to tie the game with less than five seconds left.
But the 6’7” MKG came from behind the 7’1” Mozgov, and cleanly blocked his put-back attempt, with Jefferson securing the loose ball and the victory.
"I didn't make my free throws (4-of-10 from the line), so I had to make up for it," Kidd-Gilchrist said, according to The Charlotte Observer. "That was instinct. It doesn't really show up on the stat sheet, but that's what I'm all about."
“Those are plays that win games,” added Gerald Henderson, according to the AP.
Not to de outdone, Jefferson maintained his hot streak in Kemba Walker’s absence, pacing both teams with 35 points, and added 11 boards.
During the preseason, Jefferson injured his right ankle, and it is close to being 100 percent healed, he told the AP. His recent output corroborates his assessment, as he transforms into the walking double double the Cats thought he was, when they offered him a three-year contract worth $41 million. Over his last ten games, the Bobcats’ primary low-post option has averaged a double double to bolster his candidacy for an All-Star appearance.
Ramon Sessions and Henderson contributed 16 points in the effort.
The Cats outrebounded the Nuggets 53-43 and attempted 29 more free throws, although they only made 71 percent, mainly because of MKG’s aforementioned struggles.
The Cats jumped out to a 32-21 advantage at the start of the first quarter thanks to 10 points off of turnovers. But the Cats offense struggled to maintain the double-digit advantage, and the game was tightly contested throughout the second half.
Without Walker, the onus to score falls almost entirely on Jefferson, who has been able to answer the bell admirably. And that’s fine with Big Al, who is known for his post game, just as much as his struggles on the defensive end.
Those struggles reared their head at an unfortunate time during the Nuggets’ last possession, as he was beat for the rebound.
But that’s where MKG’s strengths took over, namely his knack for the ball. He got to Mozgov in time and ensured that Big Al’s efforts weren’t for naught.
The Cats have today off and will face the Lakers Friday night.