Al Jefferson is dealing with a painful foot ailment, a mildly torn plantar fascia that he suffered in Game 1 against the Miami Heat. The Charlotte Bobcats center has been a central contributor all season along, and the big question has been how much his play would be impacted.
Before Game 3, head coach Steve Clifford wasn't optimistic about his condition improving:
Steve Clifford on Al Jefferson: "I don't see a lot of chance for him to get a lot better, honestly."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 26, 2014
But Jefferson got off to a fantastic start in Game 3, scoring 17 points by halftime:
Appears that Steve Clifford was off on this: Al Jefferson does look better. Much better.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 26, 2014
On the season, Jefferson was exceptional. He averaged 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 35 minutes per game this season. The 29-year-old anchored Charlotte in the post on both ends of the floor and has formed a dangerous inside-outside combination with point guard Kemba Walker.
Through the first two games of the series, he had a combined 36 points and 23 rebounds.
His resilience has been impressive.
Prior to Game 2, the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell reported that, "Jefferson suffered pain so severe he needed two injections to stay in Sunday’s 99-88 loss. The question for [Game 2] is not just Jefferson’s availability, but his effectiveness, playing with this injury."
That has remained the question with Game 3, and it will continue to be one throughout the remainder of the series. Can the Bobcats still count on Jefferson to give them 20 points a game, especially with any degree of efficiency? So far, he's done better than expected and should continue to surprise.
Per Bonnell, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra described Jefferson as "a tough hombre."
He has the potential to be especially effective against the Heat because Miami lacks a strong interior rotation. Outside of Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Miami really doesn't have anyone big and strong enough to deal with Jefferson on the low block. That creates opportunities for Charlotte, who likes to slow the game down and pound the ball inside.