But even the Nets couldn't handle the Bobcats and their star big man, Al Jefferson. The center led all scorers with 35 points (on 15-of-27 shooting) and 15 rebounds as the Bobcats prevailed in overtime, 116-111.
After the game, Brooklyn forward—and future Hall of Famer—Paul Pierce paid Jefferson the ultimate compliment by essentially calling him unguardable, per The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell:
Paul Pierce on Big Al: "No one on the planet can guard him. We tried to double him, single, triple. There’s nothing we could’ve done."— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) March 27, 2014
While it should be noted that the Nets are missing their best defensive big man in Kevin Garnett, there haven't been many opponents who have successfully slowed down Big Al of late. Jefferson is now averaging 25.4 points per game during the month of March (14 games), his best scoring average of any month this season.
Jefferson brings a combination of size and scoring that is hard to find in the undersized Eastern Conference. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Jefferson came into Wednesday ranked sixth in the league in scoring among players at least 6'10" in height. The only other Eastern Conference player on that list is ninth-ranked Chris Bosh.
In an article published on Tuesday, Grantland's Zach Lowe praised Jefferson for transforming the once ragged Charlotte offense into a respectable unit:
He is the fulcrum of Charlotte’s offense, which has quietly played at about a league-average rate since late December. The uptick corresponded with Jefferson’s return to health after he missed much of training camp and several early games with ankle issues.
Jefferson commands a double-team on the block against almost any defender, and that has made life easier for his teammates.
With the win, the Bobcats climbed to 35-37. Not only have they solidified their playoff spot—currently three games ahead of the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks—but they have a chance to finish the season above .500 with a strong final few weeks. If they do, it will be the second winning season in franchise history.
No matter what happens during the rest of the regular season, the Charlotte Bobcats will be heading to the playoffs. And they have Al Jefferson to thank.
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com