Clippers win second straight after five-game skid

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Mike Dunleavy is talking like a coach who is confident about his team making the playoffs. And the Los Angeles Clippers still have seven more weeks left in the regular season.

After the Clippers' 95-87 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night, Dunleavy made it clear he wasn't content with just the possibility of ending a nine-year postseason drought for the franchise that has had only one winning season in Los Angeles.

"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.

The Clippers (32-23) are fourth in the Western Conference. They have to go 17-10 the rest of the way to equal the best record in the franchise's 36-year history, set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves. So this kind of talk by a Clippers coach this late in the season is a refreshing change.

"Hopefully, we're going to close out this season the way we're supposed to and go into the playoffs and do something good there," said the newest Clipper, forward Vladimir Radmanovic.

Elton Brand had 35 points and 10 rebounds, Sam Cassell added 18 points and 11 assists, and the Clippers won their second straight after a five-game losing streak. Radmanovic, starting for the third time in five games since being acquired from Seattle on Feb. 14, had 10 points and nine rebounds.

"I'm glad I've been able to do that for this team," Radmanovic said. "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."

Jumaine Jones scored 17 points for the Bobcats, who have lost 24 of their last 29 games and are an NBA-worst 15-43. Gerald Wallace had 15 points and 16 rebounds. Brevin Knight had 17 assists, three off his career high, but missed nine of his first 11 shots and finished with 12 points.

"They wanted to make us play from the outside," Knight said. "Our thing is that we want to get to the basket as much as possible, but they just didn't allow us to. If you're not making enough jump shots, that allowed them to stay in the low post."

Both teams played without one of their starting big men. Charlotte forward Emeka Okafor sat out for 32nd time in 33 games because of sprained right ankle. Clippers center Chris Kaman missed his first game of the season after spraining his left ankle in the first quarter of Friday's victory win over the Lakers.

With Kaman unavailable, forward Quinton Ross missing his sixth straight game because of a sore lower back and backup center Zeljko Rebraca experiencing stomach problems, Los Angeles used its 12th starting lineup of the season. Walter McCarty made his first start in 23 appearances with the Clippers, getting four points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes.

"It's great to have everybody contributing like that. It's a testament to how hard the reserves have worked," Brand said. "Management picked guys who can really step in and contribute. Quinton Ross has stepped up for Corey Maggette all year. Not he's down and Vlade has stepped up. Walter McCarty, off a great Laker game, stepped right into the starting position and had a great game."

Cuttino Mobley's only basket of the first half was a 3-pointer with 2 seconds on the clock, capping a 16-2 run and giving the Clippers a 59-44 lead at intermission. They led by as many as 21 points after Brand hit a 16-foot jumper with 9:58 left in the third quarter but missed seven of their first eight shots in the fourth.

Former Clipper Melvin Ely, who sat out Charlotte's previous game because of a sprained right ankle, scored seven points in a 6-minute stretch to help slice Charlotte's deficit to seven at 85-78 with 4:54 to play.

"We built that lead up to 21, and then we fell into the classic fool's gold," Dunleavy said. "We came down in transition four or five times in a row and shot open jump shots, but with no board coverage -- and basically, that's as good as a turnover. We let them gain momentum and get right back into the game."

The Bobcats got as close as six points on Knight's layup with 1:47 remaining. But Brand beat the shot clock with a 12-footer that extended the Clippers' lead to 91-83 with 55 seconds left, and the Clippers got two free throws each from Cassell and Mobley in the final 22 seconds to clinch it.

Game notes
Kaman's injury left Mobley as the only Clipper to appear in every game this season. ... The only other time the Bobcats faced the Clippers in Los Angeles, Brand got ejected after committing a retaliatory flagrant foul against Okafor with 3½ minutes
remaining in a 99-93 double-overtime victory. ... Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff's career record in the NBA was only 10 games under .500 when he took the Bobcats job. Now, the 1986-87 coach of the year is 82 games under the break-even mark. ... The Clippers are 13-6 when Brand scores at least 30 points.