I don't think Al wanted to give piggy-back rides last night. Just make baskets and chew gum…and he was all out of gum.
(Courtesy – Chuck Burton – AP)
On the night of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s return from injury, Al Jefferson stole the show with a team season-high 35 points in a 108-98 home victory against the Knicks. Offensive clinics like last night’s prove why the addition of Jefferson was a perfect fit for the Bobcats – a team that has perennially lacked a primary scoring option.
Jefferson showed off his repertoire scoring in both the low and high-posts, shooting an impressive 14-of-20 from the field and adding a team-leading eight rebounds. Not to be outdone, Kemba Walker had 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
There were glimpses of MKG’s hustle and shutdown defense that will be crucial for the Cats to right the ship after losing eight of their last nine games after the Christmas break. Since MKG has been sidelined with a hand injury in early December, the Cats have allowed 5.5 more points per game. With a team that is 28th in the league in points per game, any letup on the defensive end will cost this team games. And that’s exactly what has happened without the team’s two top stoppers: MKG and Jeff Taylor, who will miss the remainder of the season.
MKG faced a daunting task in his first game back: Containing Carmelo Anthony, one of the league’s more prolific scores. Playing the Cats a day after an overtime victory over the Suns, it’s understandable the Knicks suffered from tired legs, evidenced by Melo’s struggles shooting long jumpers. Like any great scorer, he eventually adjusted by settling for more mid-range looks. But he only scored 20 points on 9-for-22 shooting from the field. So much for MKG being rusty…
At times during this game, and reportedly through most of the season, the Knicks didn’t hustle after loose balls and appeared sluggish. Once again, this can be attributed, in part, to playing games on back-to-back nights, and Jefferson’s performance hardly lifted their spirits.
With the win, the Cats improved to 16-23, a half-game better than the Knicks. Now, they will face the difficult task of going on the road to Philadelphia for a game tomorrow night. At the very least, don’t fret about the energy from MKG. He’s young, fresh off an injury and ready to play. His performance may very well determine if this team makes a run for a bottom seed in the playoffs or enters the lottery.