Lakers-Bobcats Preview

Battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern

Conference, the Charlotte Bobcats are showing they can finally beat

winning teams.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bobcats look to continue their dominance over the two-time

defending NBA champs Monday night when they host a Lakers team

trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss.

While Los Angeles (38-17) seems certain to make a sixth straight

playoff berth, leading second-place Phoenix by a comfortable margin

in the Pacific Division, a second postseason appearance for

Charlotte (23-31) is far more in doubt. The Bobcats, who made the

playoffs last spring for the first time in the franchise’s

seven-year history, are two games back of Indiana for eighth place

in the East.

Charlotte didn’t look much like a playoff contender Saturday in

Atlanta, trailing 51-29 with less than 3 minutes left in the first

half, but rallied to win 88-86 on Stephen Jackson’s last-second

jumper over two defenders. Jackson finished with 32 points to lead

the 22-point comeback, the largest in franchise history.

“This team doesn’t quit,” interim coach Paul Silas said. “I’ve

got to give credit to these guys because they very easily could

have folded and they didn’t.”

The victory over the Hawks marked the Bobcats’ second straight

over a winning team, following Monday’s 94-89 victory against

East-leading Boston. Prior to that win, Charlotte had lost four

straight to teams with winning records, and five of its last

six.

Despite their struggles against some of the league’s best, the

Bobcats have proven they can beat Los Angeles for years.

Charlotte has won four of five over the Lakers, and is 6-2

against them since the start of the 2006-07 season.

Jackson, who averages a team-best 19.2 points, scored 51 in the

two games against Los Angeles last season, while Gerald Wallace is

averaging 17.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in the last four games he

was healthy enough to face the Lakers, all wins.

Los Angeles arrives in Charlotte coming off Sunday’s 89-75 loss

to Orlando after having won the first four of a seven-game road

trip. The Lakers held their fourth opponent in six games to fewer

than 90 points, but finished with a season low in scoring and shot

39.3 percent, the first time they finished below 40 percent since

losing at San Antonio on Dec. 28.

“Offensively we were really stagnant. Defensively we could have

been a little better. But they had 89 points. It was a winnable

game as far as points go. But we didn’t put any up,” said Andrew

Bynum, who had 17 points.

Kobe Bryant also scored 17 – 8.4 fewer than his season average –

and only had four points after halftime.

Bryant has had success against the Bobcats, but it obviously

hasn’t led to many wins. The 13-time All-Star is averaging 30.7

points in 11 career games against Charlotte, and this includes a

five-point effort last February when he was hobbled by a sprained

left ankle.

While Bryant has done his best to carry the Lakers in this

series, four-time All-Star center Pau Gasol hasn’t had as much

luck, averaging 12.8 points on 38.3 percent shooting in the last

four meetings.