Bottom line: The Charlotte Bobcats don’t like deficits, but there’s no longer reason to fear them.
There’s a pattern to winning three of their last four: Get down by 16 or more points, pour it on in the second half and go home a winner. That was again the script in a 111-110 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
They trailed the team with the worst record in the NBA (6-22) by 18 points in the first half. They did pretty much the same thing in Toronto and Detroit, yet came away with victories.
Coach Steve Clifford says there’s a lesson that he’s glad his team has absorbed:
“They understand in this league, that while you don’t want to be down, 10 or 12 points (is nothing.)”
Monday was a curious mix of good and bad. Point guard Kemba Walker had a near-triple double, with 25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Center Al Jefferson had his scoring high as a Bobcat with 26 points (plus nine rebounds). And the Bobcats – a league-worst 30.1 percent from 3-point range – were 10-of-17 from the arc.
On the deficit side of the ledger, Clifford is concerned the team is slipping in the areas that originally boosted them to what’s now a 14-15 record.
“We are losing our (edge) a little bit in defense and rebounding. It’s more mistake-making than anything else,” Clifford said. “We are making mistakes on cuts and coverages we haven’t made. I told them, ‘You can’t get away with that’ at halftime.”
Clifford hopes that’s a reflection of the busy schedule of late; the Bobcats played five games in seven nights. Now they’re on a Christmas break of sorts, with three straight days away from games.
These comebacks – the Bobcats trailed 35-17 early in the second quarter – are both impressive and nerve-wracking.
“We don’t like getting down early like that, but it happens. And we’re a tough team,” said Walker, who has scored 20 or more points in each of his past six games. “We know we’re down but not out. We show we’re fighters.”
The value Jefferson represented when the Bobcats signed him over the summer to a 3-year, $41 million contract is being realized. He has now scored 19 or more points in five straight games with nine or more rebounds in the same span.
Jefferson’s impact is both in the points he scores in the post and the hard choices teams must now make in guarding him. The offensive spacing is improving, partially reflected by the uptick in 3s made – eight or more in three of the last five games.
“I said (when he signed) that I came to win. This is how that Bobcats team is going to be,” Jefferson said.
“We showed in (training camp) that we were focused and we all love each other. We’ve held each other accountable without anyone taking it personally.”
That’s a tone Clifford loves hearing: “You have competitors and a lot of character in that locker room.”