It's safe to say that Steve Clifford has transformed the Bobcats' defense into a formidable unit. After holding the Milwaukee Bucks to 72 points and a mere 35 percent on field goal shooting, Charlotte now ranks as the fourth best team in points allowed per game and in defensive efficiency.
"Defense wins championships" is the old mantra in sports, and Clifford is developing the formula to make the Bobcats into fringe playoff contention (surprising us all).
The Bobcats looked like a well-oiled machine, at times, on both ends of the floor. The offense had some great runs to widen the lead, and the aforementioned defense did its job -- like they have done all year thus far.
Charlotte's starters and two of their main bench players, Jeff Taylor and Jeff Adrien, all finished with a positive +/- number. Take a look at the insanity: Kemba Walker (+25), Gerald Henderson (+24), Michael Kidd Gilchrist (+24), Josh McRoberts (+25), Al Jefferson (+21), Taylor (+7) and Adrien (+7). If you're starters all finish with a +/- above 20, you likely will win in a blowout -- which the Bobcats did.
Maybe it was that the Bobcats looked really good -- or just the Bucks are that bad -- but either way this was a big-time statement for them to win like they did. Now, lets get to the individual grades for the players that played in Milwaukee.
Kemba Walker: Even though he had four turnovers, Kemba looked good. He was beating Brandon Knight almost every possession on the offensive end and was sharing the ball around, even if it didn't show that much on the stat sheet. In 28 minutes, I can be content with Walker's numbers -- just cut down on losing the ball. Grade: B
Gerald Henderson: We definitely got the 'good' Gerald Henderson tonight. Finishing with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and most importantly zero turnovers, Gerald was spectacular. I'm liking his role as a spot-up shooter when all the attention is swung over to Kemba, like it was tonight. Grade: A-
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: It's becoming the norm to watch Kidd-Gilchrist shut down his man on defense -- even more in Clifford's system. Caron Butler was no exception, as MKG held him to only five points on 2-for-8 shooting. Sure, Kidd-Gilchrist isn't showing much on the offensive end, but his constant lockdowns of shooters in Clifford's defensive rotations is giving me hope of him as a defensive superstar in the near future (as in this year). Grade: A-
Josh McRoberts: What bad things can you say about Josh McRoberts, currently? He's been scoring well, and did so again against Milwaukee. McRoberts finished with 12 points on 5-7 shooting. He even added in 9 rebounds -- a big plus for McRoberts. Very productive night for the man they call McBob. Grade: A
Al Jefferson: It was my first game I got to recap Al Jefferson this season, as he's finally healthy and back in the lineup. Big Al surely impressed me tonight. In only 25 minutes of action, Jefferson racked-up 19 points, 7 rebounds and a blocked shot. As I said in Rufus on Fire's predictions round table before the season started, Jefferson would be the lynchpin to a playoff berth. So far, I have hope that if Jefferson stays healthy and continues to put up performances like this, then I'm pretty confident in slotting the Bobcats in the playoffs. Grade: A
Jeffery Taylor: It didn't really show on the stats, but Taylor produced well for the Bobcats. Nine points and another great defensive performance deserves another positive grade from me. His struggles though from three nudged him down a little bit. Grade: B
Cody Zeller: Zeller was kind of a hot mess tonight. With only two points, four turnovers and three fouls in his 26 minutes, Zeller turned in an unproductive game. One of the few positives for Zeller on the night was him swatting a few shots back. Outside of that, nothing really noteworthy for the rookie on this night. Grade: C-
Ramon Sessions: Got to say this was a surprisingly good night for Ramon. He was aggressive and got to the line (5-for-6 on free throws). Also, he handed out 6 assists in his 24 minutes of action. Another note I saw is 13 points and no turnovers for Sessions. He deserved a good grade from me on this night. Grade: A
Jeff Adrien: If you have been following me on the Rufus on Fire account when I've been live-tweeting games, you know I love me some Jeff Adrien. I have been pleading for Adrien to get more minutes (wouldn't mind him starting in my personal rotation) and he was uber-productive once again. Adrien was gobbling up rebounds, as he finished with 10 of them. My love affair for Adrien continues to swoon after another great night off the bench. Grade: A
Bismack Biyombo: With Jefferson back healthy and Adrien out-performing him, there's little room for Biyombo in the rotation. In his mop-up duty of five minutes, he finished with three rebounds. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad from Biyombo. Grade: C+
Anthony Tolliver: Like Biyombo, he got five minutes of garbage time at the end of the game. Didn't do much with his minutes, though. Grade: C
Jannero Pargo: To round-out the three players with five minutes of garbage time, we have Jannero Pargo. The bad thing about Pargo tonight was pretty much everything. Three turnovers in that amount of minutes? Gross. Grade: F
Back at .500 at 7-7, this team is still in the thick of it early on. Clifford's defense gives the Bobcats a chance every night. New coach, new up-tempo defense and new hope.