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Bobcats have been thorn in Lakers' side

L.A. plays at sub-.500 Charlotte on Friday night, having lost three of their five games there over the years.

March 05, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

The Lakers better watch out for ... the Charlotte Bobcats?

Indeed, the Bobcats have never made the playoffs in their six-year history, but they always seem to have the Lakers' number.

They had won six of seven against the Lakers until a 99-97 loss last month at Staples Center, and now they play host to the Lakers tonight.

The Lakers are 2-3 at Charlotte, leading to a series of shrugs and excuses when they're asked about it.

It's not a stumbling block comparable to Portland, where the Lakers finally won last month after falling nine consecutive times there, but it's a strange quirk, to say the least.

"Their style of game I think is very close to the chest," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "They play every possession like it's a football first and 10. It's just real difficult for us to match that kind of game. They do a very good job defending against us. They've been one of the better defensive teams in the league."

Defensively, the Bobcats give up 94.5 points a game, second in the league. On offense, they are slow and methodical, averaging 94.7 points, 28th in the NBA.

The Bobcats were 90-146 over the previous three seasons but have improved somewhat this season. Whether they can make the playoffs remains to be seen, but it doesn't hurt that they're in the Eastern Conference, which gets thin quickly after Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and Boston.

The Bobcats (28-31) are a game and a half behind Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

They looked good against the Lakers last month at Staples Center, narrowly losing despite playing without Gerald Wallace, who was sidelined by a sore hamstring. They had the ball and were down three, but Stephen Jackson's inbounds pass with 9.7 seconds left was deflected by Jordan Farmar and grabbed by Pau Gasol, effectively ending the game.

Kobe Bryant had five points on two-for-12 shooting that night and aggravated an ankle injury after Lamar Odom stepped on his foot in the second quarter.

Two other issues facing the Lakers tonight: They'll be in the second night of a back-to-back situation after a 114-111 overtime loss in Miami, and the Bobcats are 20-8 at home, fourth-best in the East.

"They play aggressive," Gasol said. "They play the passing lanes [on defense]. They force you to make a read, swing the ball, they take you away from your first and second options. It's going to be tough, very tough. We're going to have to play a lot stronger and a lot better."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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