Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson knew teammate Chris Douglas-Roberts was close enough to hear, so he laid it on pretty thick.
“When NBA TV comes on, that should be the first play they show – over LeBron” James, Al Jefferson said following a 95-93 victory Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.
“Hey, LeBron,” Jefferson said, “I’m just playing. Don’t want him taking anything out on me.”
Jefferson was describing Douglas-Roberts’ 6-foot floater that fell through the rim as time expired to complete a huge fourth-quarter comeback. The Bobcats trailed 80-65 entering the fourth quarter. The bench – primarily Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour – got the Bobcats back into this game.
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Neal and Ridnour scored 10 points each over the those 12 minutes. A 14-0 run tied the score with 6 minutes, 6 seconds left on Ridnour’s 21-foot jump shot.
“Gary and Luke got us back in. I got a shot and that’s the least I could do for the group,” said Douglas-Roberts, who was in the development league earlier this season, but now is a key reserve in Charlotte.
Coach Steve Clifford said Douglas-Roberts was the last of several options on the play. But Jefferson’s screen sprung him free at the top of the key and Josh McRoberts threw a precise inbounds pass. Then it was instinct on Douglas-Roberts’ part.
“I’ve been shooting floaters all my life,” Douglas-Roberts said. “That’s my shot forever.”
The victory kept the Bobcats (42-39) alive for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Washington Wizards blew out the Miami Heat on Monday. Either a Wizards victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday or a Bobcats loss to the Chicago Bulls would lock the Bobcats into seventh place and a first-round series against the reigning champion Heat.
That looked like a virtual done deal when the Hawks pulled out to a 15-point lead. Atlanta played without three starters – Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll – but it still looked like the Hawks would win their 12th straight over the Bobcats.
Clifford didn’t like the energy he was getting from his starters. Also, McRoberts and Jefferson had four fouls. So Clifford went heavily to the reserves. He didn’t use three starters (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker or Gerald Henderson) in the fourth or sixth man Cody Zeller. McRoberts was in only for that last play.
Things changed when Ridnour got hot from the outside, making five of seven attempts.
“We finally got a little momentum,” said Ridnour, who started the previous two games while Walker rested a groin injury.
The Hawks tied the score with 2.6 seconds left on Lou Williams’ running 16-foot jump shot.
The Bobcats used a full timeout to advance the ball to the frontcourt for one last try in regulation. Then Douglas-Roberts had his LeBron moment.
“Great shot,” Jefferson said. “Great play, great finish.”