Well, if we learned one thing from the result of tonight's game, it's that the Bobcats clearly won the 2012 Draft, as Anthony Davis is clearly not as good as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. (NOTE: This is not true.) Furthermore, and probably much more accurate, is that Al Jefferson is virtually unstoppable, outside of a double-team featuring one of the very best post defenders in the entire league in Davis. Jefferson did finish 14-for-30 from the floor, which is a bit below his field goal percentage for the season, but all those shots came out of necessity, as his teammates really struggled to put the ball in the net for most of the game.
The Bobcats finished with a .388 field-goal percentage, in comparison to the Pelicans' .422, so the lack of offensive production tonight was truly a team effort, although Jefferson seemed dead-set on single-handedly improving their efficiency. 20 of the 57 non-Jeffersonian points were scored at the free throw line, which played an exceptionally large role, as the Bobcats got to the line 36 times (making 25 of their attempts at the stripe) to only eleven for the Pelicans. The high number of drawn fouls allowed Anthony Davis to foul out, eliminating his offensive threat for the end of the game, following a strong overall showing for him. Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, and Cody Zeller led the Bobcats in this regard, getting 26 free throw attempts combined on their strong play near the offensive rim.
Another area where the Bobcats excelled tonight was on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 47-38, on a nearly identical amount of missed field goals. In particular, crashing the boards led to 14 Bobcats offensive rebounds, led by Kidd-Gilchrist's four and Jefferson's three offensive boards. Overall Kidd-Gilchrist had 9 rebounds and Jefferson, who had ten.
The shooting was again a real problem for the Bobcats, which is nothing new, but the defense and Al Jefferson's great performance were enough to create the scoring margin in the Bobcats' favor. Plus the Bobcats were shorthanded without Ridnour and Neal ready to join the join in time for tonight's game. Let's get to some player grades.
Josh McRoberts: I've been critical of McBob at various points this season, but I think it's sometimes easy to be critical of a player whose contributions aren't always seen in the stat sheet. I think that's true in McRoberts' case. He's been a vital part of the defense this season, but doesn't always get many steals or blocks, and is very important in facilitating the ball movement in the halfcourt offense, even though he doesn't always get that many assists. He finished with three blocks tonight, though, in conjunction with a strong overall defensive performance, and notched five rebounds as well. Offensively, he didn't score too often, missing all four of his attempts from behind the arc, but made several passes to set up good looks for his teammates. Another good, but quiet, game from McRoberts. Grade: B
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Seven points on three field goal attempts is efficient scoring, right? Well, okay, he only made one shot from the floor -- a terrific driving layup in transition -- and had to get the rest of his points from the free-throw line, where he found himself often. But that's still a pretty good offensive night from the jump-shot-impaired MKG, and coupled with his typical great, high-motor play on defense and around the glass, you can see his impact on the team. Grade: B+
Al Jefferson: I'm not sure how I'm supposed to criticize him for taking 30 shots in 34 minutes. With the way the rest of this team shot the ball tonight, I don't think I can bring myself to do that. He made 14 of those attempts anyway, finishing the game with 33 points, the seventh time in the last eleven games where he's dropped thirty or more. He also added ten rebounds (double-double machine!) and blocked a pair of shots. Of note, though: Jefferson was only 3-11 on shots outside of the paint. Was that because of the double-team, starring Anthony Davis, that forced him away from the rim when the offense seemed to need him most? I'm not sure I can respond to my own rhetorical question with a strong answer, but it seems to have played a role. I'm also not sure if that will become a trend, settling for contested shots from midrange, but it's worth keeping an eye on in tomorrow night's game. He also demolished former Bobcats first-round draft pick Alexis Ajinca when they were matched up in isolation, and I'd like to think of this result as an exorcism of our demons. Grade: A
Kemba Walker: 3-for-11 shooting isn't good, especially if Kemba missed a couple at the rim and struggled to sink his uncontested outside shots, finishing 0-4 from three-point range. Five rebounds from the point guard is good, though, as were his eight assists. What also isn't good is that it seems opposing point guards, regardless of typical quality of play, have normally been able to get their points when matched up against Kemba. Tonight it was Brian Roberts, who scored 20 on 7-for-15 shooting. Brandon Jennings scored a combined 44 points in the two games against the Bobcats earlier this week, and just a couple weeks ago, Patty Mills of the Spurs managed to score 32 points off the bench. It's possible that the scoring of the opposing point guard is being de-emphasized in order to better prevent inside scoring, but it's an issue worth looking into. Grade: C+
Gerald Henderson: Henderson was another Bobcats perimeter player that struggled to score, finishing 3-for-8 for seven points. He didn't really add too much on either side of the ball other than his scoring, seeming mostly invisible for large chunks of the game, but he did lock down on Eric Gordon in the last few minutes of the game, shutting down his ability to get an open shot. Grade: C+
Anthony Tolliver: TOLLIV333R made all three of his long-range shots tonight, which is about as much as I can ever ask of him, now that I'm assuming it's almost a given that his defensive versatility is going to be utilized to its fullest when determining lineups. Steve Clifford sure seems like he'll have a long coaching career, with the way he's getting pretty fringe-y players like Tolliver to play to their fullest potential. Tolliver also finished with the highest +/- on the team, if that's a stat you like. Grade: A-
Cody Zeller: Zeller led the bench unit with thirteen points! Thirteen! And he only played sixteen minutes! He also added five rebounds and played really strong around both rims, only taking two of his seven shots from outside close range. Seeing as how shot selection has been a huge problem for him, it was great to see him succeed in high-percentage areas. He also had a great driving dunk that was totally unexpected from ... well, you know, Zeller. I'm happy for him, and you should be, too. Grade: B+
Bismack Biyombo: One ridiculously unnecessary traveling violation aside, Bismack played really well tonight. He excelled defensively, though the stat sheet won't tell you that because of his low block total, and grabbed eight rebounds in his fourteen minutes. He didn't score, but at this point, I'm not really concerned. Biyombo's role is to shut down the opposition's bench unit, and he's normally really good at doing that. Tonight was more of the same. Grade: B
Jannero Pargo: With Ramon Sessions on his way to Milwaukee, and Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour not yet to Charlotte, Pargo was thrust into the backup point guard role, making him the primary ballhandler for the bench units. Tonight he had trouble with that; though he did have three assists in twelve minutes. He was lucky to hit one of his four shots, and really didn't look NBA-caliber on defense, even for a backup point guard. He's useful to have on the team, especially since he's hit his threes, for the most part, but tonight's game might have been too much to ask of him. Grade: D+
Chris Douglas-Roberts: CDR missed all four of his shots tonight, and only got two rebounds. Despite that, he played pretty well in just about every other area, altering shots on defense and helping with the ball movement on the other end of the floor. It definitely could have been worse for a player who finished with zero points. Grade: C+
Ben Gordon: Being bought out. Grade: A-
Ramon Sessions/Jeff Adrien: We will miss you. Grade: :(