The post-game chatter was as much about what the Charlotte Bobcats lost – small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – as how they lost in an 89-82 fall to the Dallas Mavericks.
For the second straight game they blew a double-digit second-half lead. More importantly going forward, they have likely lost Kidd-Gilchrist – arguably the best defender – probably for weeks.
Kidd-Gilchrist was diagnosed with a fractured left hand he suffered in the second half. He’ll be re-evaluated in Charlotte Wednesday, but he left American Airlines Center in a cast, his middle two fingers taped together.
Kidd-Gilchrist indicated it’s the ring finger on his left hand that was injured.
“I looked down at my finger and it was (pointing) the wrong way,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, adding he isn’t sure just when or how he hurt himself.
This is the fourth broken hand in about a week’s time in the NBA. New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist’s Kentucky teammate and close friend, has the same injury as do the Clippers’ J.J. Redick and the Nets’ Paul Pierce.
The Bobcats have one of the NBA’s best defenses – this was the 11th straight time they’ve held an opponent under 100 points, best in the league – and Kidd-Gilchrist plays a huge role in that. Coach Steve Clifford has often said his team’s great strength is that wing players Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Gerald Henderson can guard effectively without needing much help from teammates.
“That’s a big hit,” Clifford said. “Foul trouble has limited his minutes some lately, but he’s been really good.
“If you watched him from the summer to now, there’s been a lot of progress since Vegas (summer league). He can be an elite defender in this league. He’s very bright.”
Taylor, who never played in the second half despite Kidd-Gilchrist’s injury, likely becomes the starter at small forward. Anthony Tolliver played a lot of small forward Tuesday, but that was a function of the Mavericks playing primarily Shawn Marion at that position. Tolliver, built more like a power forward, isn’t effective chasing around small, quick forwards.
Tuesday’s loss, which dropped the Bobcats to 8-11, was similar to a one-point loss in Miami Sunday in that the Bobcats gave up a sizeable lead (14 to the defending-champion Heat).
The Bobcats missed some open shots Tuesday, but they also deviated from some of the things that built that lead in Dallas. They were up on the Mavericks 58-46 primarily by feeding the ball to center Al Jefferson (19 points and 12 rebounds) in the post. Jefferson was limited to three shots and five points in the fourth quarter.
“Sometimes we tend to stop doing the things we were doing over the first three quarters,” said point guard Kemba Walker. “I’m still learning, but I need to take responsibility for this.
“It’s the second time we’ve done this. In order to win in this league you’ve got to stick to the things that work and we haven’t always done that.”