The Clippers are fifth in the Western Conference playoff race, two games ahead of the Hornets, who are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for sixth.
Los Angeles defeated Charlotte 95-87 on Monday for its second straight win following a season-high five-game losing streak, and Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was already considering the implications.
“I felt like this was a game we had to have because we’re trying to do the most we can do, as far as playoff seeding,” Dunleavy said.
If the Clippers—who have not been to the playoffs since 1997—go 17-10 over their final 27 games, they will equal the best record in the franchise’s 36-year history, established by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.
Elton Brand continued his strong play with 35 points and 10 rebounds, surpassing 30 points and recording a double-double for the third straight game. Sam Cassell added 18 points and 11 assists while Cuttino Mobley had 14 points for the Clippers, who notched 30 assists, one below their season high.
Vladimir Radmanovic tallied 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists in his third start in five games since being acquired Feb. 14 from Seattle.
“I’m glad I’ve been able to do that for this team,” said Radmanovic, who is averaging 11.8 points with the Clippers. “It’s all about putting the pieces together, and now I think we have almost everything. I’m really enjoying it. I wish I came here before this.”
Radmanovic’s contribution has been vital as the Clippers have been depleted by injuries. Center Chris Kaman is day-to-day with a sprained left ankle and Quinton Ross is doubtful with a sore back, but Los Angeles received some good news Tuesday when Corey Maggette was cleared to resume full-contact practice. Maggette, who is averaging 21.7 points in 13 contests, separated a ligament in his left foot Dec. 5 against Miami and has missed 38 games.
The Hornets are 11-4 since Jan. 28, but three of those losses have come in the last five games. New Orleans lost 114-104 to Seattle on Tuesday, allowing a season-worst 60 percent shooting by an opponent.
“We just did a terrible job defensively for pretty much the whole game,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said.
Rookie Chris Paul tallied 25 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds while Rasual Butler added a career-high 23 points off the bench, including a club record-tying five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Scott said third-leading scorer Speedy Claxton is expected to be sidelined Wednesday for a fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.
The Clippers, who will finish a three-game homestand, have won three straight at home against the Hornets.