There's no sense in waiting: the Bobcats look like a legitimate playoff team. After struggling in many areas for most of the game, the Bobcats turned things up in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wizards 29-19. The Bobcats only really started taking over with about four minutes left after a competitive first three quarters.
Statistically, Al Jefferson led the team yet again with a game-leading 26 points and 10 rebounds, but every Bobcat made significant contributions to the winning effort. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with a double-double as well while playing great defense on Trevor Ariza, who finished only 3-9 from the field, including 1-6 from behind the arc. Kemba Walker added 16 points and ran the offense effectively and was once again the team's main facilitator. Gerald Henderson played terrific defense on Bradley Beal, whom hit only seven of his 18 attempted shots. Josh McRoberts was his usual self, being a huge part of the ball movement in the frontcourt. Chris Douglas-Roberts hit a couple of important threes, making two of the team's five successful long-range attempts. Cody Zeller, who has improved so much over the past two months, put up seven points and seven rebounds in his seventeen minutes off of the bench.
It feels strange to summarize an entire game in one paragraph -- especially of one of the biggest wins of the season -- but I think it's fair to say that every Bobcat played like the best versions of themselves tonight. For me, this was a sign of the growth and maturity. The Bobcats were 1-8 against division opponents coming into tonight's game, and desperately needed to start winning against the teams they play the most. While they didn't gain any ground against the Brooklyn Nets in the standings, this win puts the Bobcats only 2.5 games out of the sixth seed which is currently held by none other than the Washington Wizards.
At various points this season I've gone from saying the Bobcats could be fun this year to saying they could make the playoffs. At this point, I think this team could actually win a playoff game (which I don't intend to be condescending). This team wasn't expected to have much success this season and the Bobcats have responded with a competitive squad.
Tonight's game could get an overly romantic fan (who may or may not be writing this article) to think about the season as a whole. Both the players and team as a unit have been excellent this year: Al Jefferson reasserting himself as a legitimate star; Kemba Walker showing he's much more than just a scoring point guard; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist emerging as one of the league's best perimeter defenders; Gerald Henderson proving himself as a well-rounded asset; Josh McRoberts finally finding his role; Cody Zeller improving so much over the last two months; Anthony Tolliver contributing to a team that needs him and utilizes him well; and Chris Douglas-Roberts emerging as a valuable contributor.
I've been really happy with this season, and I'm having a hard time containing my excitement after tonight's game. This is the best the Bobcats have been in a long time, and I'm loving how this season has played out for everyone involved.