Clippers-Bobcats Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers suffered a major setback earlier this week when veteran guard Chauncey Billups suffered a season-ending injury.

They can still give the ball to Chris Paul.

After leading the Clippers to their first win without Billups, the former Wake Forest star leads his new team into Charlotte on Saturday night when the league-worst Bobcats try to avoid losing a franchise-record 14th consecutive game.

With Billups gone for the season after suffering a torn left Achilles' tendon Monday in Orlando, more of the backcourt burden falls on Paul, named an All-Star for the fifth straight year last week.

After missing 11 of 16 shots and scoring 16 points in Wednesday's 99-92 loss at Cleveland, Paul converted 10 of 20 from the field in Friday's 78-77 victory over Philadelphia. The first-year Clipper finished with 24 points - none bigger than his 17-footer over All-Star Andre Iguodala with 3.2 seconds remaining.

The Clippers (16-8) improved to 3-1 on their six-game road trip and 1-1 without Billups.

"That's our first win without 'Big Shot,'" Paul said. "It gives us so much confidence."

They almost certainly have more confidence right now than the Bobcats (3-23), who haven't won since Jan. 14 against Golden State.

Charlotte skid continued Friday with an ugly 95-64 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Chicago. The Bobcats shot 32.9 percent and committed 16 turnovers en route to their lowest scoring output of the season.

"We just threw the ball away with no real focus, you know, no concentration,'' said coach Paul Silas, whose team matched the longest skid in club history set Jan. 11-Feb. 1, 2006. "It's really hard to explain. I really can't explain why because we go through our offense daily.''

Their offense will face another stiff challenge against the Clippers, who allowed their fewest points of the season Friday and improved to 12-0 when giving up fewer than 95.

The Bobcats have scored as many as 95 points just once during their skid. They could be hard-pressed to reach that mark with leading scorer Gerald Henderson out two to four weeks with a strained hamstring and point guard D.J. Augustin expected to miss a 10th consecutive game with an injured toe.

That means rookie Kemba Walker will likely draw the assignment of guarding Paul.

The Bobcats' frontcourt of Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas could have their hands full with All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who is averaging 20.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists on the Clippers' trip.

Griffin scored 17 points and grabbed 15 boards in Los Angeles' last trip to Charlotte, a 92-87 victory last March 7. The Bobcats had won the previous three times the Clippers were in town.

While playing for New Orleans, Paul averaged 20.0 points and 7.6 assists in five career games in Charlotte.

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