By Scott Lauer
February 20, 2014
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.
With 27 games left, the Bobcats are playing meaningful games, which is all we could have hoped for post All-Star break. Coming off of back-to-back wins against the Detroit Pistons, we’re now 2 ½ games up on Detroit for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference race. Having swept the Pistons 3-0 this season, Charlotte owns the tie-breaker on them. Realistically, New York and Cleveland will pose greater threats for a playoff berth. The Cavs are the hottest team in the conference, winning six straight. It’s such a fluid race, that one or more of these teams could not only make the playoffs, but possibly surpass teams like Atlanta (losers of seven straight) or Washington.
It doesn’t take a PHD from MIT to realize that the Bobcats will only go as far as Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker take them. Fully understanding that deep insight, Head Coach Steve Clifford is starting to amp up their minutes, particularly with the younger Walker, who logged 43 minutes in Detroit two nights ago, before registering a career high 16 assists against them last night. Incidentally, he couldn’t even boast about having the most assists in the league last night; that distinction went to Ricky Rubio, who logged a career-high 17 in a win over Indiana. There aren’t many minutes that go by in a Bobcats game where you see both Jefferson and Walker resting simultaneously. It’s becoming more of a pattern to see Walker play the entire first quarter and Jefferson go until very late in the frame before being rested for Bismack Biyombo. By the way, Jefferson scored 29 points last night, coming a point away from his seventh 30-point game in his last 10!
Josh McRoberts is also an important ingredient, as he featured a 15-point, five-rebound and five-assist game last night. He rests mid to late first quarter ordinarily, as Cody Zeller is inserted. The rookie delivered last night, particularly in the opening period, with six points, three boards and a block. Jefferson told us in a radio postgame interview with Radio Studio Host James Hamlin, that he challenged Zeller after the game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, that he needs to attack in a stronger manner, and he responded.
Having won two in a row, can the winning stretch continue? They have a nasty six-game stretch coming up starting tomorrow night against Anthony Davis and New Orleans, followed by Memphis, at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City, at Miami, and a home game against Indiana. Even including the Pelicans, who are (23-30), those six teams have a combined 67% winning percentage!
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is such a valuable commodity defensively at the small forward position, and he’ll challenge the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Paul George toward the end of that aforementioned stretch. There are myriad variables explaining why the Bobcats suffered through only one bad stretch all season (losing eight of nine), as their defense slipped substantially, but it’s clear that it had something to do with MKG’s absence due to a fractured hand. They were (2-9) without him and have a winning record since his return over the last month.
Tomorrow night’s matchup with New Orleans wraps up a string of games against teams with a losing record (they’ve struggled without Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson over the last month), so it would be quite beneficial for the Bobcats to earn another win before that daunting five-game stretch of vicious opponents.
Lauer Blog Archive:
2/6/14: VIDEO: Bob Beyer
1/30/14: Big Al Deserves to be an All-Star
1/9/14: VIDEO: Ramon Sessions
1/9/14: VIDEO: Catching Up with Al Jefferson
12/26/13: Cats Focused on What's Ahead
12/19/13: Great December for Cats
12/12/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Stephen Silas
12/5/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Southerland
11/21/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Adrien
11/14/13: Jefferson Returning to Form
11/7/13: Unsung Heroes Helping Early Success
11/1/13: Ready for Home Opener
10/2/13: Bench Will Be a Difference Maker
10/1/13: Jefferson Will Make an Impact