By Scott Lauer
November 14, 2013
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Bobcats. His column will appear on bobcats.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bobcats organization.
The Bobcats achieved a feat on Nov. 13 in Boston they should be very proud of – owning a start-to-finish lead and closing the deal with a six-point win over the Celtics. They’re now (4-4) heading into tomorrow night’s game in Cleveland. The storyline from last night was clear - Al Jefferson has returned to form. The prized free-agent acquisition logged 33 minutes, producing game highs in points and rebounds (22 and 11, respectively) and added three assists. He set the tone early, dominating the opening quarter with eight points, four rebounds, and two assists. I declared to Jefferson this morning that, “he is back!” He smiled, and essentially acknowledged that comment tacitly. He said that he was winded at periods (still getting back into shape following forced time off with a sprained right ankle) and that Head Coach Steve Clifford did an excellent job delegating his minutes with precise substitution patterns. Coach has the keen awareness to sense when a player is fading and has the knack for pulling players for a rest at the right time. The Bobcats were up as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Celtics made several runs to make it close – almost always when Jefferson was resting. Jefferson also smiled and told me that this was the first time that he’d beaten the Celtics since leaving the organization nearly seven years ago. He had played for Minnesota and Utah for the previous combined six years and lost all 12 meetings to Boston. He said that he didn’t tell his teammates about that statistic before the game because he, “didn’t want to jinx it.” He made it known after the 89-83 win though.
Josh McRoberts was unavailable last night due to personal reasons and is expected to return for the Cavs game, but Anthony Tolliver played well starting for him. He earned 11 points mostly off of three made shots from beyond the arc. He also took two important charges late. Coach Clifford said that he wanted to insert the veteran into the starting group and not disrupt Cody Zeller’s rhythm off the bench. The rookie Zeller contributed a near double-double, playing half the game. Off the court, one of the wonderful perks for certain players, is the ability to see the country during their NBA travels, and with the 21 year-old Zeller, he just mentioned that he had never been to Boston. I sense that he has that well-rounded perspective to truly appreciate seeing all of these cities.
Tomorrow night at the Q in Cleveland, the Cavs should likely play like salty dogs, following a 29-point loss in Minnesota last night. The Bobcats beat them twice in the preseason, as well as once already in the regular season. Cleveland (3-6) is one of the disappointing teams in the first three weeks of the season, but I fully expect them to round into playoff form as the year progresses, as Andrew Bynum sheds the rust coming back from knee surgery and top pick Anthony Bennett starts to contribute. The Kemba Walker/Kyrie Irving matchup is always intriguing. Of course it takes a cumulative team effort for success, and I’ll leave you with this telling Bobcats team stat heading into the Cavs game – in the four Bobcats wins, they are getting to the free throw line an average of 37 times. In their losses, the number is 15.