This is how it was supposed to look for the Charlotte Bobcats before center Al Jefferson’s first season here was sidetracked by a right ankle sprain:

Jefferson would score 35 points off 20 shots. The defensive attention he draws would open up the perimeter (6-for-14 from 3-point range). And the Bobcats would beat a team like the New York Knicks more than occasionally.

The Knicks might be 15-23, but they entered this game on a five-game winning streak that included beating the Miami Heat. So the Bobcats’ 108-98 victory Tuesday felt significant.

“They played a lot like they played earlier in the year – together,” said coach Steve Clifford, whose team improved to 16-23.

Certainly a factor in that togetherness was the return of small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He played for the first time since breaking his left hand in early December. The Bobcats went 7-12 in his absence.

Kidd-Gilchrist finished with eight points and seven rebounds, but those numbers don’t fully convey his contribution.

“You could see the value of Gilchrist,” Clifford said. “Energy and intensity – those are skills. He’s just normally a competitor.”

Kidd-Gilchrist said he was “amped up” to guard Knicks star Carmelo Anthony in his first game back. Kidd-Gilchrist held Anthony to 20 points on 22 shots from the field. That’s six points below his season average.