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NBA: After West Coast wins, Bobcats thinking playoffs

Associated Press
LOS ANGELES ó The Charlotte Bobcats lost an inordinate amount of close games early in the season. They just hope it won’t come back to haunt them, now that they’re within striking distance of the franchise’s first playoff berth.
Emeka Okafor had 28 points and nine rebounds, Raja Bell scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Charlotte beat the Los Angeles Clippers 100-95 on Saturday night for their third straight victory.
The Bobcats are 5-16 in games decided by five points or fewer, including five losses in a nine-game stretch during December. Had they won half of those 16 games they lost, they would be six games over .500 instead of 10 games under.
“There’s no need looking back and thinking about games we could have won,” coach Larry Brown said. “Our goal is just to get better each game, and I think we’re doing that. With the team we had at training camp and early in the season, we didn’t think could win 10 games. But the team we have now, we have a chance to win every night we step out on the court.”
The Bobcats have won three straight for just the second time this season and the first time since Jan. 7, when they beat Portland after road wins against Washington and Detroit.
They began this five-game trip with losses to Houston and Phoenix, then rebounded with wins over Sacramento and Golden State before vanquishing the Clippers with the help of a strong third quarter in which they outscored them 34-20.
Brown gives much of the credit for the team’s resurgence to Michael Jordan, the team’s managing member of basketball operations, and general manager Rod Higgins for rebuilding the roster on the fly. Only five of their current players were with the team last season, and five others came over in trades during the past 111/2 weeks.
The Bobcats, who entered the NBA in 2004-05, beat the Clippers for the fourth straight time after losing the first six meetings. Okafor made 11 of 17 shots, while Diaw added 15 points.

NOTES: Brown, who played for the Denver Nuggets and then coached then in the ABA and NBA, was dismayed that the Rocky Mountain News printed its final edition on Friday after almost 150 years in circulation. “That was a great sports section and a fun sports section,” Brown said. “Denver’s a great sports town, and now it’s a one-paper town. That’s disappointing.” … Charlotte is 7-10 this season against the eight other NBA teams Brown has coached. There are eight such games remaining. The total makes up 30.5 percent of the Bobcats’ schedule. … Only three coaches have guided the Clippers to the playoffs since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1984 ó Brown, Dunleavy and Bill Fitch.

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