(Photo Courtesy Mark J. Terrill - AP)
A day after getting snubbed from the Eastern Conference’s All Star team, Al Jefferson tied a career-high with 40 points as the Bobcats defeated the listless Lakers 110-100.
To put Jefferson’s Herculean effort into proper context, one must consider how lazy, lifeless and disinterested the Lakers looked on their home floor Friday night. Don’t get me wrong, 40 points is impressive regardless of the opponent, but the Lakers’ effort was an embarrassment to the league and fodder for any sports fan, who argues teams merely go through the motions in the regular season, especially those in tank mode.
The Cats repeatedly capitalized with uncontested jumpers and a seemingly endless layup line, scoring 16 points more than their season average.
With a 16-31 record and the playoffs out of reach, Pau Gasol told ESPN for what the team had to play throughout the remainder of this season: “Mostly pride and our fans and the name that we have on our chests, more than anything."
That response reads nicely, but the team’s actions on the court – at least last night –indicate this team isn’t playing for pride or the franchise’s storied history.
The Cats outscored L.A. in the paint 64 to 38, and many of those points for the Cats were dunks and layups – easy scoring opportunities that a team that struggles on offense will gratefully accept.
Big Al continues to average a double double over his last 12 contests and scored his 40 on 18-for-32 from the field and added 18 assists. Gerald Henderson added 20 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 10, and the bench 23.
Kemba Walker remained on the sidelines with his ankle injury, but will reportedly play in either of the next two games to finish this West Coast road trip.
Winners of six of their last 10 – all in Walker’s absence – the Bobcats have proven they are playing for a postseason berth, even if it means losing its first-round pick in the process. And that’s the beauty of the game; the players can insulate themselves form outside talk and play as hard, or lazily, as they want. The Lakers and Bobcats are perfect examples of both ends of the spectrum.
At the very least, last night’s victory ties the Cat’s win total from last year 48 games into the season.
Under coach Steve Clifford, it’s obvious this team will play hard, which in the terrible Eastern Conference, could be enough not just to make the playoffs, but earn a middling seed. As of Saturday, the Cats are five games out of the “3” seed. Granted, there are 34 games to play, but the next two at Phoenix and Golden State, which are likely playoff team, will give fans a more accurate pulse of this team’s capabilities.
TSP Andrew: I’d like to interject a little something about our team. We will never get respect from any other team in the NBA until we are handling as many teams as we can, just like we handled the Lakers last night. As I sat on Twitter after the game, post after post by Lakers fans were popping up. Negative comments. Ugly comments. I re-tweeted as many as I could to share with my @Bobcats followers. The ugly truth is a 2-part truth; The Bobcats will have to win a ton of games to gain respect, and the Lakers fans need to realize that they are in a rebuild mode. With Kobe and Nash out, the Lakers look just like Derek described: a team going through the motions. Charlotte Bobcats fans know well what that looks like because we have lived it for the past few seasons.
We are in a place where, as one Twitter fan stated, if we can get better now, get better. We’re doing it. Keep your eyes peeled for possible trades coming up. The Bobcats have been mentioned in trade rumors involving Taj Gibson. I’ve also seen the purely speculative Aaron Afflalo rumors. I even was working on a Josh Smith plan where we could send Ben Gordon to Detroit for Smith, and Detroit would un-protect the pick they owed us this year. This gives Detroit the chance to dump the stupid contract they created, and gives us J-Smoove and the chance at a top 10 pick, even if we were to make playoffs. Truthfully, I have no clue what may happen. I could see our picks being put together with a player to net a higher pick. I guess we’ll all see over the course of the next 3 weeks as to what happens. Keep in mind that Brendan Haywood will be back around the All-Star break, so he could be a cheap option to piece with Ben Gordon, for a team needing a Center really bad, but needing them to come cheap.
We face the Suns tonight, a team that is well on track to make the playoffs. Sitting at 28-18, that is good enough for a #6 seed, if the season started now. Riding a 2-game win streak, this will be a good test for the Bobcats.
By the way, how about a warm welcome for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver!!!
I love it!
So, about the NBA Draft Lottery...you know, we're bringing back the Buzz, so, how about a feather for our cap?