The Bobcats are hot, baby.
By defeating the Warriors, the Bobcats finished their road trip with a 3-1 record which brings their total wins to 22 -- one more win than all of last season. They're now just one game behind the Brooklyn Nets -- who hold the seventh seed -- and 1.5 ahead of the Detroit Pistons, who currently sit in the ninth spot. There are only 32 games left on the Bobcats' schedule, and with such a loose hold on the eighth seed, all wins are appreciated.
The Bobcats controlled the game from the tip with their defense and led the Warriors 26-13 after the first quarter. Al Jefferson was involved early and finished the quarter with seven points, four rebounds, and two assists. He was simply too quick and skilled for Andrew Bogut and David Lee to defend.
He finished the game with 30 points on 12-22 shooting, 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals. An absolute pleasure to watch along with Gerald Henderson's 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
The same cannot be said for the Warriors' offense. There's no doubt that the Warriors missed a handful of easy buckets, but the Bobcats' defense deserves a ton of credit. It held the Warriors to 31.2 percent shooting in the game, which, according to Rick Bonnell, is the lowest field goal percentage the Warriors have posted in a game since 2004. The Warriors also shot just 20 percent from 3-point range. All of this from a team that is eighth in the league in field goal percentage (45.7 percent) and third in 3-point shooting (38 percent).
Whenever Stephen Curry tried to guide the Warriors back into the game, the Bobcats would lock down on him and force the ball out of his hands. Curry still took 18 shots -- many of them forced -- but was simply unable to get himself going and lead his team. Hats off to Kemba Walker for doing a heck of a job on Curry in just his first game back.
In his post-game interview, Walker said he felt like he hadn't played in a month, and that he felt rusty in the second half of the game. Walker missed a few weeks of games, so that's no surprise. He finished the game with a solid (and quiet) seven points, seven assists and six rebounds despite an injury scare in fourth quarter. It was cramps, thankfully. Walker has been phenomenal this season and I'm tired of seeing him miss games.
All in all, this was a thoroughly entertaining game. The Bobcats showed they can be an elite defensive team against one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. Defense wins games in the playoffs, and if that's where the Bobcats want to be in April, they're going to need to sustain this level of play. And from what I've seen lately, that's not unreasonable to expect.
The Bobcats play the San Antonio Spurs February 8 at 7 p.m. EST.