So this is how it looks when Al Jefferson is halfway healthy and used to the optimum.
The Charlotte Bobcats’ free-agent prize spent most of the past two months with nagging ankle injuries. He’s still not there physically, but he’s not running with a limp and he sure was effective Friday: A season-high 23 points and 12 rebounds in the Bobcats’ 92-76 home victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jefferson was tired of the lethargy the 8-9 Bobcats had demonstrated at Time Warner Cable Arena. They had lost five of their previous six in Charlotte, and Jefferson said he’d never before experienced a team with less energy at home than on the road.
So Friday in the fourth quarter he personally blew up the Bucks, making 6-of-10 shot attempts for 13 points and adding seven rebounds.
“I did want to take it upon myself,” to charge up the offense, Jefferson said. “I got hot.”
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford believes there’s another level to be reached in how the Bobcats use Jefferson. He said the Bobcats can’t beat the best teams unless it gets him the ball even deeper in the post as the season progresses.
Jefferson doesn’t disagree, but he’s also not complaining about his touches Friday.
“I think I can score all over the court,” said Jefferson, who hit a couple of face-up jump shots among his 11 field goals. “But it helps the team when I catch the ball a lot deeper. It helps the spacing.”
It also helped that the Bucks are dreadful. They have lost 11 in a row to fall to 2-13. In two meetings with the Bobcats (the other a 24-point Charlotte victory in Milwaukee) the Bucks have managed 72 and 76 points.
Shooting guard Gerald Henderson got the Bobcats started early with 12 of his 19 points in the first half. Then reserve center Bismack Biyombo, who hadn’t played much of late, had 12 of his season-high 14 rebounds before halftime.
Jefferson had been encouraging his backup not to get discouraged by his minutes of late.
“I said, ‘You focus on rebounding and blocking shots. The points and the other stuff will come,’” Jefferson recalled of his advice to Biyombo.
The Bobcats played Friday without small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Jeff Taylor started for Kidd-Gilchrist and shooting guard Gerald Henderson played some small forward.
That opened up minutes for Ben Gordon, who had played in only one game previously this season. Gordon finished with eight points in 17 minutes. His 2-of-8 shooting from the field reflected his inactivity.
Clifford said that while Gordon is small for an NBA shooting guard and not a great athlete by NBA standards, his skill level and work ethic are still strong.
“I’ve known Ben since he was in seventh grade. He’s a self-made player, a workout phenom,” Clifford said.
BOBCATS 92, BUCKS 76
Percentages: FG .333, FT .750. Three-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (Neal 2-2, Knight 1-3, Middleton 1-3, Mayo 1-6, Antetokounmpo 0-1, Ridnour 0-1, Wolters 0-1). Team Rebounds: 11. Team Turnovers: 10 (9 PTS). Blocked Shots: 9 (Henson 6, Middleton 2, Antetokounmpo). Turnovers: 9 (Knight 2, Mayo 2, Middleton, Pachulia, Raduljica, Udoh, Wolters). Steals: 10 (Middleton 3, Knight 2, Antetokounmpo, Neal, Pachulia, Ridnour, Wolters). Technical Fouls: Sanders, 9:17 second; Coach Drew, 3:14 second; Defensive three second, 1:14 second.
Percentages: FG .443, FT .613. Three-Point Goals: 3-15, .200 (Sessions 1-2, Henderson 1-3, Walker 1-4, McRoberts 0-1, Southerland 0-1, Gordon 0-2, Taylor 0-2). Team Rebounds: 14. Team Turnovers: 18 (17 PTS). Blocked Shots: 4 (Sessions 2, Biyombo, Zeller). Turnovers: 17 (Walker 6, Henderson 5, Biyombo 2, Gordon 2, Pargo, Sessions). Steals: 5 (McRoberts 2, Gordon, Henderson, Jefferson).
Att.—15,081 (19,077). T—2:10.
Officials—Marc Davis, Ben Taylor, Bennie Adams.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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