Ever since Marcin Gortat put the clamps on Al Jefferson, the Bobcats' center has been on a tear. He has had 11 games of 30 points or more and 17 games of nine rebounds-plus. He has this franchise in position to make the postseason for the just the second time.
"They're playing with great confidence. We're going to have to play an A-game and come out here and attack right from the start," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
After that 97-83 loss on Jan. 7, the Bobcats were 15-21. Gortat held Jefferson to six points on 3-for-9 shooting and 10 rebounds. They've had a winning record since then. Jefferson is averaging 26.4 points on 54.4% shooting and 9.7 rebonds in 11 games since the All-Star break.
"I don't know if we were the wake-up call or what it was. He's taken off since then and the's doing it against everybody. We're going to have to a collective effort to stymie it a little bit," Wittman said.
The Bobcats (30-34) have made some adjustments, adding guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour through a trade last month. They have more juice off the bench behind Kemba Walker, the starting point guard who has been playing better, too. Gortat, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting, felt he owed Jefferson from their old West coast matchups. Gortat was with the Phoenix Suns and Jefferson with the Utah Jazz. He'd felt Jefferson often got the better of him.
"They're still the same team. Al Jefferson is really playing big for them. He's really the key," Wizards point guard John Wall said. "Gary Neal is a person that has come in, can shoot the ball and give them a lot more pace. They've still got the same team. Those two guys are solid. Then you get a guy like Gary Neal who can come in and shoot the ball and space the court for them."