Cats Wake Up To Extend Streak
At the outset of Sunday’s matinee in Milwaukee, it appeared as if the Charlotte Bobcats had accidentally hit the snooze button and forgot to get up for their uncommonly early game against the Bucks.
But after a halftime wake-up call, Big Al Jefferson and one of his newest teammates, reserve guard Gary Neal bounced back to help Charlotte win their fourth straight.
Big Al scored 16 of his 20 points and Neal scored 16 of his 18 in the second half to buoy the Bobcats to a 101-92 victory over the Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. After the game, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford stopped short of making excuses for his players, but noted that the start wasn’t totally unexpected given the nature of Charlotte’s schedule:
“When you get a noon start, you have no idea what to expect,” Clifford said. “We’re 60-something games in (to the season) and you take them totally out of their routine.”
Though still wiping the sand from their eyes, the Bobcats did hang in at the start of the first, and even had a four-point lead when Big Al made his first shot of the game less than three minutes in. However, by the time No. 25 scored again, with less than 20 seconds left in the first, Charlotte was behind and his basket merely cut the deficit from seven to five.
The problem for Charlotte wasn’t finding the bottom of the net. In fact, they shot over 50 percent in each of the first two quarters. Instead, the Cats struggled to even take shots. They took just 17 in the first and even fewer, just 14, in the second. That’s because the team turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, including four by Big Al, who was disgusted with the first half effort.
“It was terrible out there,” he said. “But we got going.”
Indeed, the second half resembled a different game for the Bobcats, especially Big Al.
Though they trailed by four at halftime, that deficit was soon erased, and when Al knocked down a 19-foot jumper just 2:43 into the third, Charlotte had a one-point lead. The bucket was good for two of Al’s 10 points in the third.
Following Al’s jumper, a back and forth battle ensued with four ties and a pair of lead changed. With 5:30 to go in the quarter, No. 25 took a pass from Gerald Henderson and knocked it down from 17 feet to give the Cats a 64-62 lead. Milwaukee’s Jeff Adrien answered to tie the game, but Al scored on a layup with four minutes remaining in the third to take the lead right back.
Charlotte led by two, 76-74, after three, but Adrien once again tied it just 15 seconds into the fourth. More back and forth ensued and the teams exchanged the lead four different times in the first five minutes of the fourth.
Josh McRoberts put the Bobcats ahead for good when he knocked down a trey with 6:42 remaining. Al followed with a layup off Henderson’s feed to stretch the lead to three, then, out of a time out, drained a hook shot to put Charlotte in front 92-87 with 5:04 remaining. Henderson, Kemba Walker and Neal all hit shots down the stretch to expand the lead and Al put the capper on it with a jumper that put the Bobcats up 101-90 with 40 seconds to go. That was all she wrote as the Cats sealed up their fourth straight win.
After the game, Tucker Warner of Rufus on Fire gave Big Al a B+ game grade for his efforts:
While 10-17 shooting for 20 points and seven rebounds isn’t quite the game we’ve come to expect from Big Al, it’s still very good. I like having a player whose off-nights look like this. The six turnovers were pretty unhelpful, but he was effective defensively in addition to having a fine offensive performance. Grade: B+
After their Milwaukee matinee, the Bobcats headed back home to Charlotte where they’ll play the second half of a back-to-back on Monday night against the Hawks.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SportSouth.