Al Jefferson scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Charlotte Bobcats notched their second straight road win with a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Jefferson tied his career-high with 40 points and also added 18 rebounds. He also became the first Bobcat to record 30 points or more in three straight games, the second player in the NBA this season with three straight 30-10 games (Kevin Durant, Dec. 27-31) and sixth player in NBA with multiple 30-15 games this season. I guess you could call this statement game for Jefferson after being snubbed in this year’s All-Star selections.
As a result of Jefferson’s strong play, the Bobcats have matched their 21 wins from last season just before the All-Star break and are continuing to hold down the eighth spot in the east. Jefferson has really been picking up the offensive slack with Kemba Walker (ankle) out. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 31.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. He also has seven double-doubles in his last eight games and 15 double-doubles in his last 23 games. Do you think Jefferson was snubbed from the All-Star game this year?
With much of the credit given to Jefferson, the Bobcats were able to take advantage of their undersized opponent by outscoring the Lakers 48-20 in the paint and 41-29 on the boards. Offensively the Bobcats are getting it done, but the biggest difference for Charlotte this year that has been overshadowed is their ability to play defense. Entering Friday’s night matchup, the Bobcats are giving up only 97.2 points per game which is the sixth-lowest average in the NBA. Last season the team allowed 102.7 points per contest, ranking 29th in the league. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.0) and the third-fewest points in the paint (37.2). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 31 of their 47 games this season which is the third-most such games in the NBA. The Bobcats held 13 straight opponents under 100 points from Nov. 13-Dec. 6 which tied the second-longest streak in franchise history and tied the longest streak in the NBA this season set by the San Antonio Spurs from Nov. 5-29.
The Bobcats are clearly much more efficient with giving Jefferson more looks, a trend that shouldn’t (but might) end when Walker comes back. When Walker does return if the Bobcats find a way for their two stars to orchestrate big performances every night together look for Charlotte to make a lot of noise this season — possibly the playoffs too.