In the first of a home-and-home series with the Detroit Pistons, the Charlotte Bobcats went wire-to-wire in a victory that actually has playoff implications. That's right, the Bobcats are in sole possession of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a lead over the Pistons that now stands at 1 1/2 games.
Showing no signs of rust after the All-Star break, Charlotte went right to work on the Pistons connecting on their first seven field goal attempts paired with some stifling defense that kept Detroit off balance for most of the first half.
"Our guys talked about it before the break, and said that everyone needed to do something to get ready for the rest of the season," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. "Whatever they did, they were all ready to go tonight, and it was obviously a factor."
With a 54-43 lead at the half the Bobcats did not suffer a letdown in the the third quarter as they jumped out to a 67-49 cushion, putting the Pistons in a position they have not been comfortable with all season; having to mount a comeback.
The Bobcats were led by center Al Jefferson who was three assists shy of a triple-double with 32 points and 12 rebounds, his sixth 30 point performance in the last nine games. "He's a bad matchup for the entire league right now," interim Pistons coach John Loyer said. "We knew exactly what he was going to do - they ran the same plays they always run - but there's not much you can do to stop him."
Charlotte also got big games from Kemba Walker who had added 22 points and Josh McRoberts who logged 14 points to go along with 10 boards. "This was a complete team performance tonight and Al was just great finding guys wide open when he drew the double team," Walker said after the game.
The Pistons were led by center Andre Drummond who was coming off his MVP performance in the Rising Stars game last Friday. His 16 points and 22 rebounds were not enough however to keep pace with the Bobcats who now have a chance to take a 3-0 head-to-head lead over Detroit with a victory on Wednesday.
"We didn't have the energy and concentration that I would have expected," said Loyer, who is 1-2 after replacing Maurice Cheeks last week. "That's very disappointing. You can't let a good NBA team, and I think Charlotte is a good team, post that kind of start.