Bobcats-Clippers Preview

After a forgettable showing in their first game out of the
All-Star break, the Los Angeles Clippers returned to their
high-flying ways.

They seemingly shouldn’t have any trouble putting together
another strong performance against the Charlotte Bobcats and their
vulnerable defense.

The Pacific Division-leading Clippers look for a sixth win in
seven games Tuesday night against the Bobcats at Staples
Center.

Los Angeles (40-18) went into the break riding a four-game
winning streak while averaging 110.0 points and 52.7 percent
shooting. Playing for the first time since Chris Paul won All-Star
game MVP honors, the Clippers came out flat in a 116-90 home loss
to San Antonio on Thursday, but bounced back two nights later with
a 107-94 victory over Utah.

Caron Butler scored 21 while Blake Griffin and Lamar Odom added
18 points each for Los Angeles, which shot 51.3 percent and led by
as many as 21.

“We were just a lot more focused,” guard Chauncey Billups said.
“That San Antonio game left a really bad taste in our mouth.”

Odom came out inspired, shooting 8 of 15 to reach a season high
in points to go with six rebounds in 23 minutes. The 14-year
veteran had totaled 13 points in his previous six games.

“I’m starting to get my legs underneath me. I’m just trying to
stay at it, work hard,” he said. “I’m trying to fit in and do
whatever I can do to help the team win.”

Another victory certainly appears to be in reach considering the
Bobcats (13-43) have dropped 10 of 12 road games, with both
victories coming over hapless Orlando.

The Bobcats, opening a four-game trip, allow an average of 102.8
points to rank 28th in the league, and they’ve been even worse on
defense lately.

They’ve given up at least 105 points each time in losing their
last three while allowing opponents to shoot 51.0 percent. Those
contests were all at home and two came against subpar offensive
teams in Detroit and Chicago.

Now they face a Clippers club that has scored at least 106
points in four of its last five and is 23-3 when getting at least
102.

Some of Charlotte’s problems in a 113-99 loss to Denver on
Saturday stemmed from it turning the ball over 18 times, leading to
23 points for the Nuggets.

“We had a lot of turnovers that led to a lot of fast-break
points for them,” said rookie Jeffery Taylor, who had a
season-high 18 points. “We usually keep our turnover count down, so
that was a little uncharacteristic for us.”

Protecting the ball could again be difficult, however, as the
Clippers are forcing a league-best 16.7 turnovers.

Although the Bobcats struggled defensively Saturday, Kemba
Walker again played well with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting for his
fourth straight 20-point game. He is averaging 24.8 points and 53.0
percent from the field during the surge after averaging 11.0 and
33.9 in his previous five.

Byron Mullens has cooled off considerably following a hot
stretch, totaling six points and shooting 2 of 21 in his last two
games. The 7-foot forward had averaged 19.2 points – 6.7 better
than his season average – in his previous six contests.

He had a team-high 19 points to go with nine rebounds in a
100-94 loss to Los Angeles on Dec. 12, while Walker scored 17.

Paul, Griffin and Matt Barnes each scored 19 for the Clippers,
who have won the last four in the series by an average of 12.7
points.