Clippers-Bobcats Preview

The Los Angeles Clippers suffered a major setback earlier this

week when veteran guard Chauncey Billups suffered a season-ending

injury.

They can still give the ball to Chris Paul.

After leading the Clippers to their first win without Billups,

the former Wake Forest star leads his new team into Charlotte on

Saturday night when the league-worst Bobcats try to avoid losing a

franchise-record 14th consecutive game.

With Billups gone for the season after suffering a torn left

Achilles’ tendon Monday in Orlando, more of the backcourt burden

falls on Paul, named an All-Star for the fifth straight year last

week.

After missing 11 of 16 shots and scoring 16 points in

Wednesday’s 99-92 loss at Cleveland, Paul converted 10 of 20 from

the field in Friday’s 78-77 victory over Philadelphia. The

first-year Clipper finished with 24 points – none bigger than his

17-footer over All-Star Andre Iguodala with 3.2 seconds

remaining.

The Clippers (16-8) improved to 3-1 on their six-game road trip

and 1-1 without Billups.

“That’s our first win without ‘Big Shot,'” Paul said. “It gives

us so much confidence.”

They almost certainly have more confidence right now than the

Bobcats (3-23), who haven’t won since Jan. 14 against Golden

State.

Charlotte skid continued Friday with an ugly 95-64 loss to

Eastern Conference-leading Chicago. The Bobcats shot 32.9 percent

and committed 16 turnovers en route to their lowest scoring output

of the season.

“We just threw the ball away with no real focus, you know, no

concentration,” said coach Paul Silas, whose team matched the

longest skid in club history set Jan. 11-Feb. 1, 2006. “It’s really

hard to explain. I really can’t explain why because we go through

our offense daily.”

Their offense will face another stiff challenge against the

Clippers, who allowed their fewest points of the season Friday and

improved to 12-0 when giving up fewer than 95.

The Bobcats have scored as many as 95 points just once during

their skid. They could be hard-pressed to reach that mark with

leading scorer Gerald Henderson out two to four weeks with a

strained hamstring and point guard D.J. Augustin expected to miss a

10th consecutive game with an injured toe.

That means rookie Kemba Walker will likely draw the assignment

of guarding Paul.

The Bobcats’ frontcourt of Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas could

have their hands full with All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who is

averaging 20.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists on the

Clippers’ trip.

Griffin scored 17 points and grabbed 15 boards in Los Angeles’

last trip to Charlotte, a 92-87 victory last March 7. The Bobcats

had won the previous three times the Clippers were in town.

While playing for New Orleans, Paul averaged 20.0 points and 7.6

assists in five career games in Charlotte.