The Los Angeles Lakers already have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but they didn't look like an elite team in their last game.
That has been a familiar sight for the Charlotte Bobcats, who have routinely kept Los Angeles from playing its best.
The Lakers look to bounce back from their worst offensive performance of the season and avoid their sixth loss in seven games against the Bobcats when the clubs meet Tuesday night in Charlotte.
Los Angeles (58-15) has been the West's most dominant team all season, riding MVP candidate Kobe Bryant and fellow All-Star Pau Gasol to the top of the conference and the second-best record in the NBA.
The Lakers, though, haven't had any answers for the Bobcats (33-40) in recent years. Though Charlotte hasn't finished a season with a winning record since joining the league as an expansion team in 2004, it's won five of the last six meetings with Los Angeles, a perennial contender.
With a 5-4 all-time record against the Lakers, the Bobcats are one of only two teams - alongside Boston - with a winning record against them since they moved to Los Angeles in 1960.
In the first matchup this season, Charlotte won 117-110 in double overtime Jan. 27 in Los Angeles. It was the third time in five meetings the teams have needed overtime, and the Bobcats have won all three.
After that most recent loss, Lakers coach Phil Jackson couldn't explain why Charlotte has had his team's number.
"You know, it's the way the roll of the dice goes, and this was one of those games," he said.
Charlotte forward Boris Diaw had 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in that January win, and point guard Raymond Felton added 21 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Bryant had 38 points before fouling out late in the first overtime. He's averaging 35.3 points in eight career games against the Bobcats but has only won three.
Bryant was nursing a stomach ailment and struggled through the Lakers' last game, an 86-76 loss at Atlanta on Sunday. Los Angeles was held to a season-low point total and 35.0 percent shooting for its second-lowest mark of 2008-09.
Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds while going 7-for-10 from the field, but the other starters combined to shoot 29.1 percent (16-for-55) as the Lakers fell to 4-1 on their season-high seven-game road trip.
Bryant scored 17 points and went 7-for-19 from the field after getting limited to 14 points and 5-for-19 shooting in a win at New Jersey on Friday night. Bryant, averaging 27.2 points, isn't expected to miss any time with the stomach problem, but it's unclear if it will affect his game Tuesday.
"My stomach's OK now," Bryant said after Sunday's game. "When my medicine wears off, it's going to be interesting."
The Bobcats, two games behind eighth-place Chicago in their chase for the first postseason berth in team history, can reach a franchise-record win total with a victory over the Lakers. They've matched their previous best of 33, set in 2006-07, by winning five of their last seven.
Gerald Wallace had 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a 96-85 victory over New York on Saturday.
Wallace is averaging 20.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 59.7 percent from the field over his last 12 games. He credits first-year Bobcats coach Larry Brown for his recent success.
"I'm learning every day and I'm getting a whole lot better," Wallace said. "I see a lot of the things (Brown) was complaining and fussing about and going off on me about at the beginning of training camp. I'm starting to see the effects they've had on me as a player. Every day I learn something new from him."