Indiana, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami twice …
Sooner or later the Charlotte Bobcats had to figure out how to close the deal against a really good team. Sooner became Wednesday night when the Bobcats held off the Los Angeles Clippers 95-91.
The 29-15 Clippers beat the Bobcats 112-85 in Los Angeles, humiliating them in the midst of five-game road trip. The idea they’d reverse that result, particularly considering the way Clippers forward Blake Griffin played through three quarters Wednesday, seemed a reach.
Then Griffin, who scored 26 points in the first three quarters, went invisible. His fourth-quarter stats: 0-of-4 from the field, one point, two rebounds and two assists.
Griffin should have been charged with a turnover when Bobcats point guard Ramon Sessions stripped him of the ball with just over a minute left, but because Griffin was raising the ball at the time, Sessions was instead credited with a block.
Regardless of the nomenclature, this was clear: The 19-25 Bobcats snuffed out a superstar when it mattered most. Power forward Josh McRoberts accomplished that with help from various perimeter players.
“We figured it out a little bit,” said McRoberts, who hit two key free throws with 13 seconds left to close this one out. “I think we were a little confused about what to do with him in the first half. And to be honest, they went to him less in the fourth quarter.”
This felt like the biggest win of the season. The only one that could compare was the early victory against Golden State, and the Warriors weren’t playing as well then as they are now.
The Bobcats are 2-0 since losing point guard Kemba Walker for about two weeks with an ankle sprain. Turns out the sky wasn’t falling after all.
“Everybody has to step up without Kemba,” said center Al Jefferson, who had another virtuoso game with 24 points and 10 rebounds. “Everybody has to commit to that, and that’s what we have done.”
Sessions shot poorly. He was 4-of-12 including a tear-drop airball that luckily fell in the hands of teammate Gerald Henderson for a go-ahead dunk with 22 seconds left.
Sessions knew, however, that when he went from reserve to starter, he needed to be more of a distributor. His eight assists were a season-high.
This was the fourth straight game in which Jefferson has finished with 22 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. It’s clear his ankle is improving and he’s returning to the form the Bobcats are paying $13.5 million a season to retain.
“When I’m healthy I’m going to do what I do best,” Jefferson said. “My ankle is feeling a lot better and I’m in better shape out there.”
He’s happy to have McRoberts along for the ride: “He’s a smart guy on offense; like our point guard. And he isn’t afraid of anything. He’ll take up any matchup.”
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