Again they didn’t win, but this time the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t give in.
Their losing streak is now at nine. In some of those losses – to Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Golden State – the Bobcats looked beaten-up, demoralized and exhausted.
This was different. They played one of the league’s best teams in the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, and though they fell 100-94, they competed all the way. Byron Mullens hit two 3s late to force Clippers superstar Chris Paul to the foul line four times in the last 38 seconds.
“All I can really ask us to do is play hard, play long and not back down,” said Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker, who finished with 17 points. “That’s what we did.
“We’ll get one of these eventually. As long as we play the way we did today, we’ll definitely get some W’s.”
The Bobcats (7-14) recovered from two 10-point deficits to force the Clippers (16-6) to the final seconds. But this one still came down to the Bobcats giving Los Angeles abundant extra chances. The Clippers scored 24 points off Bobcats turnovers and converted 17 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points.
The Clippers are superb at turning opponent turnovers into transition dunks. Minimizing those chances is key to beating them, and the Bobcats didn’t.
“Sometimes our guys want to win so much they make ill-conceived passes,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “Those times we got (the deficit) to three, we couldn’t get defensive boards. Then down the stretch we committed turnovers.”
A team with all the Clippers’ firepower – Paul (19 points, 10 assists), power forward Blake Griffin (19 points) and one of the NBA’s top benches – will pounce if you slip up. This was the Clippers’ eighth straight victory.
“They can walk away from you with the click of a finger,” Dunlap said.
It was telling that the Clippers scored 50 points in the lane. Sixteen of their first 18 points were scored there, most right at the rim. Charlotte big man Bismack Biyombo drew the difficult task of guarding Griffin, one of the NBA’s most powerful low-post scorers.
Griffin made 9 of 17 from the field. Biyombo was disappointed in his performance. Dunlap saw it otherwise.
“I think I’ll learn from this, but I could have done a better job,” Biyombo said.
The point that misses is that the Bobcats asked Biyombo to guard Griffin with minimal help.
“He can take a superstar on heads-up, so we don’t have to rotate our defense,” Dunlap said. “That’s because he’s so physical.”