Clippers 98, Bobcats 94
The Clippers became the latest in a series of teams the Charlotte Bobcats thought they should have beaten and didn't.
Rasual Butler scored 20 points and Chris Kaman had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles on Monday night in a 98-94 victory that ended their four-game losing streak against the Bobcats.
``Our biggest problem now is sometimes we don't realize that every game's a big game,'' Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. ``We get up for certain games and not others. When you look at these teams that are winning a lot of games, they don't take nights off because their opponent is always bringing their A game.
``The good teams in this league have to play well every night because everybody's pointing to them. The teams that struggle don't realize that you have to play at a high level every night in order to be successful. And we haven't realized that yet.''
Brown is especially frustrated over the fact that the Bobcats have lost 11 games to teams with losing records, including two against the 5-51 New Jersey Nets. And if they miss the playoffs by only a couple of games, they're really going to be kicking themselves.
``I'm not worrying about that. Those games are over,'' Brown said. ``I mean, who would have suspected us to beat Cleveland three straight? And last year, we beat the Lakers twice and still had a lot of bad losses. We have 27 games where we'll decide whether we deserve to be in the playoffs or not. So if we don't make it, it will be on us.''
The Bobcats are 3-6 this month, after going 12-4 in January to put themselves in contention for their first playoff berth in the franchise's six-year history. They slipped into a tie with Milwaukee in the race for the final seed at 27-28, following the Bucks' 83-67 win at New York.
The Clippers, coming off a 99-89 win over Sacramento on Saturday, improved to 2-5 under interim coach Kim Hughes. Baron Davis was back in uniform, getting 10 points and 10 assists after missing two games because of a sore lower back.
Drew Gooden and Travis Outlaw both made their debuts for the Clippers after joining them in separate trades with Washington and Houston before last Thursday's deadline. Gooden, the first player off the bench, had 10 points and nine rebounds.
``It's just a different team, but the same game,'' said Gooden, playing for his eighth team in eight NBA seasons. ``I'm kind of just using my tools that I have gotten over the years from other coaches and applying them here.''
During one 44-second stretch of the second quarter, Los Angeles had five players on the floor who weren't with the team last season - Gooden, Outlaw, Butler, Craig Smith and point guard Steve Blake, who was acquired from Houston last Tuesday.
``I'm glad we got another win,'' Kaman said. ``Drew Gooden and Steve Blake came in and played well for us and gave a good contribution. I thought Travis played pretty well after being out for so long. It's nice to have options on the court.''
Gerald Wallace had 32 points and 12 rebounds for the Bobcats, and Boris Diaw had 20 points. But Stephen Jackson missed his first eight shots and was 1 for 16 overall with seven points in 39 minutes before fouling out with 2:08 remaining and the score tied at 87.
Jackson, the team's leading scorer in 10 of the previous 12 games, had scored 30 or more points in eight of the last 25 contests - including a franchise-record 43 on Jan. 12 against Houston. It was the first time the league's 11th leading scorer failed to reach double digits in 46 games since the Bobcats acquired him in a four-player trade with Golden State on Nov. 16.
Brown had to improvise considerably without the services of 7-footers DeSagana Diop (sprained right knee) and Tyson Chandler (sore left ankle). Nazr Mohammed, plagued recently by back spasms, missed his first game after playing 12 scoreless minutes with five rebounds in Saturday's 93-88 loss at Milwaukee.
Center Theo Ratliff made his first start in three games since joining the Bobcats last Thursday in a trade with San Antonio, and his fourth start in 24 games this season overall, scoring 10 points in 31 minutes.
NOTES: Hughes, trying to incorporate a more up-tempo style with the Clippers, didn't get any fastbreak points by his offense the entire game. ... Hughes got his first chance to match wits with Brown, his former coach with the Denver Nuggets. ``One of my best memories of Kim is that he used to struggle from the free-throw line and tell me it was because he saw people in the stands moving,'' Brown said, referring to Hughes' dismal .333 free-throw percentage in five NBA seasons (62 for 186). ``But he was a really, really underrated defender and he had a good feel for the game.'' ... Mohammed's injury left F Boris Diaw as the only Bobcats player to appear in all 55 games.