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Monday, February 27, 2006 

CLIPS TAKE CARE, T.C.B.

If NBA games lasted 50 minutes rather than 48, Charlotte might have come all the way back from the 21 points down they found themselves midway through the third quarter tonight at Staples Center. Time ran out on the Bobcats, though, keeping them 0-for-the Clippers in their two-year history after the 95-87 defeat. But the Clips never have it easy with Charlotte: their four wins in the series include one in double overtime, another on a last-second Shaun Livingston layup, and two ugly eight- and nine-point wins this season.

Elton Brand led the way, as he usually does, with 35 points and ten rebounds on 15-23 shooting. (He started 10-13.) Sam Cassell emerged from his slump with a double-double of his own: eighteen points and eleven assists along with four steals. (Brevin Knight's double-double was even more impressive: twelve points and a jaw-dropping seventeen assists.) Cuttino Mobley hit just 3-10 FGs but got to the line more than anyone and finished with fourteen points as the Clips' third option.

Vladimir Radmanovic cooled off a bit from the Laker game but ended only one rebound shy of a double-double of his own. Zeljko Rebraca was not expected to play but came off the bench for ten points on 5-7 shooting in seventeen minutes. It's great to see Z healthy and contributing. And surprise starter Walter McCarty, emboldened by his success against the Lakers, filled up the stat sheet with four points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 32 big minutes.

The film session will be as ugly as the game. Although L.A. outshot Charlotte 48.1% to 41.8%, the Clips corralled just five offensive rebounds in losing yet another battle of the boards. More ominously, they turned the ball over a whopping 23 times. You may get away with that against the team with the worst record in the league; repeat it Wednesday night against the Hornets and they'll blow you out of the building.

Coach Dunleavy would indubitably have liked to rest his starters. But the combination of the Clips' sloppiness and the Bobcats' refusal to go away kept the game from getting to garbage time. So Vin Baker didn't make his Clipper debut, James Singleton was yet again nowhere to be seen, and only Zelly and Livy (two assists, two turnovers and five fouls in fifteen minutes) saw significant action off the bench.

For the Clips, the win made February a winning month (barely): They posted a 7-6 record following a 10-5 November, a 6-7 December, and a 9-5 January. As March blows in, the Clips sit in fifth place in the West, 1-1/2 games ahead of the #6 Hornets (Wednesday), 2 ahead of the #7 Grizzlies (Sunday), 4-1/2 ahead of the #8 Lakers, and 5-1/2 ahead of the #9 Jazz (Friday). Get the feeling this week -- before all the injured guys come back (God willing) -- is kinda important?

Join the game discussion at Clipper Talk. -- Jordan

Good read Jordan, I love the way you put everythign in perspective. I really liked how you included a month to month breakdown. Keep up the great work, buckle you seat belts- we're all in for one hell of a ride.

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