What did the Charlotte Bobcats lose Saturday when point guard Kemba Walker rolled his left ankle?
“We lost the heart-and-soul of this team,” center Al Jefferson said following the 104-96 overtime loss to the Miami Heat. “He’s our fight and we’re going to miss that. Now Ramon (Sessions) and (Jannero) Pargo have to step up.”
X-rays detected no fracture after Miami center Chris Bosh came down on Walker’s ankle during his drive to the rim. Walker will have a magnetic resonance imaging on Sunday to determine the severity of the sprain.
But coach Steve Clifford made it clear Monday’s home game against the Toronto Raptors will be the first one missed in Walker’s 190-game NBA career.
“He’s going to be out for a while,” Clifford said. “We don’t know how long.”
Despite Walker’s absence the Bobcats got to overtime and nearly won this one in regulation. Jefferson (22 points and 14 rebounds) cut to the basket on the Bobcats’ last possession of the fourth quarter with a clean route to the rim. But Sessions’ pass was batted down to interrupt the play’s flow.
In overtime the Heat snuffed out the Bobcats offensively, holding them to six points. Jefferson never scored in the extra five minutes, taking a single shot, as the Heat converged on him in the lane,
“We played hard, but you can’t make mistakes against a team like Miami. They did a hell of a job on me,” said Jefferson, who made 10 of 23 shots from the field.
“And we had to go up against Superman – he made some incredible shots.”
It was obvious who Jefferson meant – Heat small forward LeBron James, the reigning NBA most valuable player, finished with 34 points on 13-of-25 from the field. He got to the foul line 10 times, which was a worst-case scenario, based on Clifford’s pre-game description of do’s and don’ts versus James.
Clifford used Anthony Tolliver for the majority of the minutes guarding James, as opposed to starter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist had some early foul trouble and played only 6 ½ minutes of the second half.
Clifford said his decision to play Tolliver 36 minutes Saturday was more about his ability to make 3-pointers (3-of-6) than Kidd-Gilchrist’s foul situation.
“It was offense,” Clifford said. “And to be honest, (Tolliver) played good defense. He’s a smart, solid defender.
“And when Mike missed that much time (six weeks off with a broken left hand) he’s not back yet” in terms of conditioning and sharpness.
The loss of Walker could be big for a team that has gone 3-8 in its last 11. Walker and Jefferson had hit a high level of synergy of late. Sessions is talented (16 points off 6-of-10 shots Saturday) but he’s not Walker.
“I feel really bad about Kemba,” said Jefferson, who missed time due to a preseason collision with Bosh’s foot. “Again, Chris Bosh has something going with the Bobcats about ankle injuries.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell