Bobcats Beat NBA’s Best
Al Jefferson continued his low-post tour de force Wednesday night in Charlotte, delivering a marquee win in the Bobcats’ 2013-2014 playoff run.
Big Al went off for 34 points by knocking down 16 of his 25 shot attempts and grabbed eight rebounds, dished three assists and had a steal and a block in Charlotte’s 109-87 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
After helping his team dismantle a title contender that held the league’s best record by 22 points while dominating throughout the entire game, Big Al spoke about the statement he hopes the victory made about the Cats.
“I’m not accepting that we’re a team guys can look at on the schedule and say, ‘We got the Bobcats can take the night off.’ No. We’ve proven that we can be a team that will come out and compete,” he said. “I think we proved that tonight.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Charlotte. But according to Al, the way the Bobcats played in those three losses, to three of the NBA’s top teams, prepared them to play against another NBA juggernaut in the Pacers when they arrived home.
“That trip, we lost three in a row, but we played against three great teams,” he said. “San Antonio, we were tied with almost two minutes left in the game. Oklahoma City, with nine minutes left in the fourth we were right there. Miami, the best player in the NBA scored 61 points, and we still had a fighting chance at the end. So we didn’t play bad. We left that road trip with some confidence. We came home, the schedule didn’t get any easier on us. The best team in the league was waiting on us.”
The Cats were ready for the Pacers, and hopped out to an early lead, riding Big Al’s broad shoulders early as he hit his first six shots against the vaunted Indiana defense. On the other end, Charlotte used their own stifling defense to hold the Pacers to a franchise-low eight points in the first quarter while building a 28-8 lead.
“We responded well,” No. 25 said. “We came out and we had good energy. We knew it was going to be a physical game against David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George, but we had to step up.”
One of the players who stepped up in a big way for Charlotte, particularly on the defensive end, was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Two nights after LeBron James gave him 61 points, Kidd-Gilchrist bounced back to keep George, another of the NBA’s best wings, at bay. George went 0-9 from the field on Wednesday night and turned the ball over five times.
After the win, Al told reporters that he believes Kidd-Gilchrist was unfairly criticized after the performance of James, because his teammate was simply following the game plan, forcing James to take jumpers. James just happened to be so hot he hit every one of them. He was happy to see Kidd-Gilchrist getting credit after his work on George.
“MKG did exactly what the game plan was. It’s funny how everybody else can sit and give their comments on stuff like that. You get out there and try to guard a man,” he said of those criticizing his teammate. “MKG did, and he proved what he can do tonight. Paul George, in my opinion, has proven himself to be one of the top players in the league also, and MKG is not afraid.”
With the defense thriving and stifling Indiana, Al was able to cook on the offensive end. He had 20 points by the end of the first half, and the Bobcats withstood a second quarter run from Indiana to go into the break in front by nine.
In the second half, it was more of the same for Charlotte. Al was a monster on the glass in the third, grabbing six of his eight boards during that frame while chipping in nine points. That allowed the Bobcats to re-establish a double digit lead and enter the fourth leading by 16.
The Cats held a lead of at least 13 points for the duration of the game, and when Al returned to the court for a brief stint in the fourth, he put an exclamation point on the win by banking in a three-pointer that nearly blew the roof off Time Warner Cable Arena.
“Everybody said they knew if I got the shot off it was going in because it was just our night. In a way I felt the same. I knew if I released it, it was going to have a chance to go in,” he said. “It’s always great to get it rolling in front of our home crowd. You have to protect home. We have a lot of confidence at home.”
The 34-point night for Big Al was his 21st 20-point game in his past 24 outings. Over the past twenty games Al is averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds per game, the highest marks for any center in the league.
The fact that Al’s big night came against the top defensive team in the league and the leading candidate for Defensive Player of Year, Roy Hibbert, makes it even more impressive.
Al out played Hibbert on both ends of the floor. The Pacers All-Star center made just 2-of-8 shots and finished with four points and four rebounds. Comparing the two stat lines gives credence to something Charlotte fans have been saying more and more of late: the best center in the East resides in the Queen City.
People are sleeping on the Bobcats this year. Al Jefferson baking very nicely
— Maddi da 6’3 (@YoungLordMaddi) March 6, 2014
Someone tell me who is a better center in the NBA than Al Jefferson. #Bobcats
— Tim Jones (@damnUJones) March 6, 2014
— Eric Fultz (@ericfultz) March 6, 2014
Al Jefferson playing “Grown Men Basketball”
— Tyler Cook (@TylerCook93) March 6, 2014
Al Jefferson the best low post scorer in the game?
— Bonie Lodua (@LoduaB) March 6, 2014
Al Jefferson gotta be the most underrated dude in the NBA
— Brian Ives (@Ives2Nice) March 6, 2014
After Wednesday night, those fans might not get an argument from Indiana coach Frank Vogel. Speaking to the press after Al’s masterful game, Vogel compared the big man’s offensive repertoire to that of Celtics legend Kevin McHale and said Big Al deserves more credit than he’s currently given.
“I think everybody needs to question the Eastern Conference voting on why Al Jefferson wasn’t on the All-Star team because clearly he is one of the best in the game,” Vogel said. “He showed it tonight. Give him credit.”
The Bobcats look to continue their winning ways at home Friday against the Cavaliers. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM EST from Time Warner Cable Arena with coverage available on Turner Sports South or with the NBA League Pass.
- Al Jefferson Postgame – 3/5/14 (NBA.com, March 5, 2014)
- Bobcats squash Indiana Pacers, on Al Jefferson’s 34 points (Charlotte Observer, March 5, 2014)
- Pacers’ Vogel: Al Jefferson reminds me of Kevin McHale (Charlotte Observer, March 5, 2014)
- Bobcats upset Pacers at home, 109-87 (Rufus on Fire, March 6, 2014)
- Big ups to Big Al: In appreciation of Al Jefferson (Rufus on Fire, March 6, 2014)
- Bobcats beat down NBA-leading Pacers, start NEW WORLD ORDER (Rufus on Fire, March 5, 2014)
- Jefferson, Bobcats take down Pacers (Fox Sports, March 6, 2014)
- Charlotte Bobcats 109, Indiana Pacers 87: Smear No. 1 (Queen City Hoops, March 5, 2014)
- Bobcats hand Pacers second consecutive loss (Reuters, March 5, 2014)
- Al Jefferson powers Bobcats’ upset of Pacers (Associated Press, March 5, 2014)