A lot of good things happened for the Bobcats tonight. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned from his hand injury, giving us our first viewing of MKG in the new year, and Al Jefferson went nuts on the scoreboard.
Lets start off with the big headline in MKG. Kidd-Gilchrist fractured his hand 6 weeks ago (it felt so much longer) and ever since we've seen a slow and steady regression in the Bobcats' defense. Part of this is due to a lack of effort and other teams scouting them out but you can't say that a lack of MKG wasn't also a part of it. MKG did things like chase off ball threats, tie up the opposing teams best scorer, and other defensive grunge work responsibilities.
Tonight we got to see some of MKG's defensive work put to good use as Kidd-Gilchrist covered Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony. Melo finished 9-for-22 with 20 points and didn't make a single three-point shot. Melo never got any kind of flow going and was extremely streaky.
The Knicks themselves played really sup par defense and offense. The Bobcats didn't play the greatest defense we've seen them play but the Knicks offense looked terrible. The team looked tired, which you'd expect in a back-to-back on the road but it wasn't the "We're trying and tired;" It was the "Lets get this over with" kind of tired. The ball movement was shaky and players weren't communicating well. I'm pretty sure on one play half the players were prepping for a set play while the other half expected an isolation set.
The Knicks defense was even worse than the offense. Al Jefferson destroyed them shooting 7-for-9 in the first half. I thought Tyson Chandler was going to give Jefferson some major issues tonight but I was wrong. Chandler struggled against Jefferson's deceptive post moves and bought on a lot of his pump fakes. When Jefferson started making jump shots, it was all over for Chandler. Jefferson finished the game with 35 points on 14-for-20 shooting, a season high and five points short of his career high.
After Jefferson finished torching the Knicks, Kemba Walker decided he wanted in on the fun and started putting up some ridiculous shooting numbers on an exhausted Knicks defense. At the end of the first half Walker was 2-for-5 with five points. In the second half Walker went 7-for-10 and finished the game with 25 points.
The Bobcats defense wasn't at the expectations they earned at the beginning of the season but it was vastly improved over how it was during the last road trip. However, the Bobcats had a rare night where their offense was at a high level largely because Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker went nuts from the field. In the night MKG returned from injury and the Bobcats returned from a road trip, they grabbed a win.