Al Jefferson showed why the Charlotte Bobcats coveted him as a free agent during the summer. Jefferson scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lift the Bobcats to an 89-83 victory over the Boston Celtics Wednesday.
Boston’s loss snapped a four game win streak.
It was the first time Jefferson, Boston’s 2004 first round pick, defeated his former team since being traded to Minnesota in the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston.
“A long time coming,” Jefferson said following the game. “Been so many close times.”
Jefferson displayed a complete offensive game and took over for the Bobcats as their go-to scorer. He went 8 for 17 from the field, while the rest of Charlotte’s starting lineup went 12 for 40. The Bobcats showed no trouble getting the ball to Jefferson when they needed points, a stark contrast from Monday’s loss against Atlanta.
Despite a solid night from the field, Jefferson still saw room for improvement.
“I still missed a lot of shots I normally would make,” he said. “I’ve got to get in better shape. I know there’s a reason that I’m not in top shape.”
It was a change of pace for the Bobcats, who in nine seasons as a franchise have never had a center as offensively talented as Jefferson. The Bobcats were last in the league in frontcourt points last season.
“He’s an elite low post scorer and he’s a much, much better defender than I had realized,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said of Jefferson. “The thing that’s coming through now as you watch him is his competitiveness.”
Anthony Tolliver, who started in place for Josh McRoberts, had 11 points and shot 3 for 6 from three. Tolliver hit a big three with 5:37 left that pushed the Bobcats lead back to six after Boston went on a run.
McRoberts was excused from the team for personal reasons. He’s expected to return to the lineup Friday in Cleveland.
Charlotte went to Kemba Walker on the next possession, whose missed shot was followed by Jefferson to put the Bobcats up by four.
“They beat us to all the loose balls and rebounds,” said Crawford. “It’s not really a game to throw away. It’s one to look at to see where we can get better.”
IN THE BONUS:
- It’s worth repeating how refreshing it was to watch the Bobcats feed the ball to Jefferson. Charlotte has not had the ability to do that for a long time unless Emeka Okafor went on a scoring binge. Jefferson is a savvy low-post scorer with excellent footwork, solid court vision, and the ability to score with either hand. At 6’11, 250 pounds, he is a load for opposing defenses. This time last year, the Bobcats best frontcourt play was letting Byron Mullens shoot a three early in the shot clock.
- The Bobcats shot 36.6 percent from the field, after shooting 61.1 percent in the first quarter.
- Cleveland Cavaliers’ center Andrew Bynum is not expected to be with the team Friday when the Bobcats visit. Bynum was excused for personal reasons.
- Walker is 12 for 46 from the field in his last three games.
- Former Bobcat Gerald Wallace had 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench in 32 minutes. Wallace was a part of the trade that sent Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn in the summer.
- Rookie Kelly Olynyk started for the Celtics at center. He had six points, four assists and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes.
- Cody Zeller had eight points, nine rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes off the bench.
- TD Bank Garden is usually one of the liveliest atmospheres the NBA has to offer. Wednesday night, it came across as anything but.
ABOVE THE RIM:
- Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: Though Jefferson, the former Celtic, had the most obvious impact with a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double, perhaps the most confounding number was this—Charlotte won by six points despite shooting only 36.6 percent from the floor.
- Rick Bonnell, Charlotte Observer: The Bobcats do two things consistently well: play half-court defense and get to the foul line. Add Jefferson in the low post to that formula and they just might have something.
- Dakota Schmidt, Queen City Hoops: I really hope it’s just an early season slump because Walker continues to struggle immensely on offense. Tonight was possibly his worst performance as he shot 1-13 from the field while being unable to help lead the Bobcats offense as a distributor.
- Mark Puleo, Hardwood Houdini: Tonight’s game could best be described as a terrible storm of bad chance. Vitor Faverani and Brandon Bass’s first bad games coincide with Jared Sullinger being out in a game against one of the most skilled offensive big men in the league.