Mar 23, 2010, 11:59 PM EDT
The lesser teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race — Miami, Charlotte, Toronto, and Chicago — have set themselves up for plenty of intrigue over the season’s closing stretch. The competition between the four squads for just three playoff spots has been incredibly competitive, and no team has any games to spare at this point.
That makes Stephen Jackson’s announcement that that he’s endured an injury to his left hand a little bit troubling. From the Associated Press:
Jackson revealed Tuesday that the top knuckle on his left index finger has been troubling him for nearly four weeks. He says he has “excruciating pain” every time he slaps down on the ball…Jackson says he can’t catch the ball comfortably and is having to alter how he plays on offense. He said he hasn’t missed a game all season, so it’s starting to take a toll on his body.
Things aren’t about to get better for Jackson until they get worse, which serves to make the Bobcats’ playoff push a tad difficult. They have a built-in three-game lead over the ninth place Bulls after Charlotte’s overtime victory tonight.
Jackson is the Bobcats’ leading scorer, but his field goal percentage has dropped from 46.4% in February to 38.5% in March. That’s a fairly damning drop when considering how bad the Bobcats were on offense before the injury; Charlotte is currently tied for 25th in the league in offensive efficiency, and their stylings on that end of the court are equal parts uninspired and ineffective.
Having a less effective Jackson isn’t likely to help.
Then again, the ‘Cats have hung onto a playoff spot for this long, and to Jackson’s credit, he’s still reasonably productive. Not as efficient, surely, but still point points on the board for a team that badly needs them. Those points could be enough to secure the first-ever playoff appearance for the Bobcats, even if Jackson’s injured hand would make the ‘Cats a less-than-fearsome playoff opponent.