San Antonio (26-13) at Charlotte (16-24)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Charlotte, NC
Temp: 48° F
  • Game info: 2:00 pm EST Mon Jan 19, 2009
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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has wanted his team to return to its usual, hard-nosed defensive play. They’ve never had much trouble keeping the Charlotte Bobcats in check.

After snapping a three-game slump, the Spurs look to continue their dominance of the Bobcats as the teams meet Monday.

San Antonio (26-13) was struggling through its worst stretch on defense this season, allowing an average of 108.3 points en route to losing two of three. It was the first time the Spurs allowed at least 100 points in three straight games since December 2001, with two of those games going into overtime.

Popovich demanded his team turn it up on the defensive end, and San Antonio responded Saturday night with a 92-87 win over Chicago. The Spurs bounced back after their worst loss of the season, a 109-87 defeat at Philadelphia the previous night.

“That’s who we are,” Popovich said. “People have to score in the 80s or 90s for us to win. If they score over 100, we’re just an average team.”

San Antonio has never had a problem implementing Popovich’s strategy versus Charlotte (16-24), which is averaging 91.4 points. The Spurs are 7-1 all-time against the Bobcats, holding them under 90 points in the six contests that did not go into OT.

San Antonio held Charlotte to 75.5 points per game and 38 percent shooting in winning both games last season. The Spurs have also never lost at Charlotte against the Bobcats, allowing 83.3 points a contest while going 4-0.

Charlotte is shooting 29.7 percent from 3-point range against San Antonio. The Spurs, meanwhile, are making 40.1 percent of their shots from beyond the arc this season, led by the league’s top long-range shooter, center Matt Bonner (48.2 percent).

Bonner had 12 points and 11 rebounds while going 2-for-5 from 3-point range against the Bulls.

DeSagana Diop doesn’t come close to matching Bonner’s offensive skills, but Charlotte is looking forward to getting its newest big man in uniform Monday after acquiring him from Dallas in exchange for guard Matt Carroll and center Ryan Hollins on Friday.

The Bobcats’ second trade in just over a month wasn’t nearly as big as the deal that sent top scorer Jason Richardson to Phoenix for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, but the move helps in coach Larry Brown’s quest to get bigger up front and better defensively.

“This team is growing. Everybody is growing and everybody’s getting better,” Bobcats guard Raymond Felton said.

Charlotte now has a 7-foot defensive specialist in Diop, who will perhaps allow undersized center Emeka Okafor to play more power forward. Diop didn’t play in the Bobcats’ 102-97 overtime win over Portland on Saturday night because he had yet to take a physical.

Charlotte has won three straight and is starting to creep into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

Gerald Wallace had 31 points and 16 rebounds versus the Trail Blazers as Charlotte won its third straight at home.

“The chemistry is starting to come together, with the team as well as the coaches,” Wallace said.

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Monday, Jan 19