Sports

Clippers walk a fine line on practice

Los Angeles ClippersPro BasketballDoc RiversCharlotte BobcatsPhoenix SunsMaalik WaynsChris Paul

The Clippers haven't practiced much recently because they are in the midst of a busy portion of their schedule.

The rest keeps bodies fresh but comes with a downside. Exhibit A was a 19-point loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

"We had had a ton of slippage from maybe the not enough practicing with all these days [off] that we have had," said Coach Doc Rivers, who lamented the Clippers' "horrendous" transition defense and said the players were reverting to bad habits from earlier in the season.

Does that mean the Clippers will practice more? Not really.

"It's always a balancing act," Rivers said Wednesday night before the Clippers' 112-85 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. "If someone has a formula, can you please tell me because I don't know it. I don't think anyone knows it. You try to walk the right line and sometimes you're on it, sometimes you're on the wrong side of it and then you keep going back and forth, and that's what we'll do. You'll practice more and have less shootarounds."

The Clippers looked more in sync against the Bobcats, one day after practicing and watching a coach's cut of film from their debacle against the Suns.

"We had a great practice [Tuesday] where we competed and just talked about moving the ball and we did that tonight and things came a little bit easier," said point guard Chris Paul, who had 14 of the Clippers' 36 assists.

Rivers' reluctance to overwork the team has been understandable.

The Clippers have had four sets of back-to-back games since the beginning of December, a compressed stretch in which they have also had two days off between games only three times. After initially planning to give the team the day off Thursday, Rivers scheduled a practice before games at Dallas on Friday and San Antonio on Saturday.

Transition game

Byron Mullens has traded up teams while relinquishing his role as a steady contributor.

The former Charlotte starter is barely playing for the Clippers.

Mullens played sparingly against the Bobcats, which has become the norm for a center who has appeared in six games since late November after signing a two-year, $2-million contract over the summer. He made both of his shots Wednesday and finished with six points in one minute.

Mullens entered the game averaging 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7.6 minutes per game, significantly down from the 10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 26.9 minutes he averaged last season.

"You can't get much out of a guy you're not playing, you know what I mean?" Rivers said. "He's just not in the rotation right now, but I give him credit: He still works at it every day and I think at some point he's going to help us in a game or two or maybe fight his way into the rotation."

Etc.

Reserve guard Maalik Wayns, sidelined since late October after surgery for torn cartilage in his left knee, was activated.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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Los Angeles ClippersPro BasketballDoc RiversCharlotte BobcatsPhoenix SunsMaalik WaynsChris Paul
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