Clippers 102, Cavaliers 90

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Chris Kaman stole the show from Elton Brand and LeBron James, the most recent NBA players of the month.

Kaman had a career-high 19 rebounds and scored 12 points Saturday night, leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a 102-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last Wednesday at Cleveland, Kaman grabbed nine rebounds and missed all five shots before fouling out in the Clippers’ overtime loss.

“It wasn’t about revenge, it was about winning the game,” Kaman said. “We want to beat every team that steps on this floor.”

Kaman eclipsed his previous career best of 16 rebounds with 4:48 left in the third quarter, just 29 seconds after Sam Cassell’s 16-foot jumper gave the Clippers their biggest lead, 68-49.

“He just worked his tail off, and we didn’t work as hard as he did,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.

Brand, the Western Conference player of the month in November, and his Eastern counterpart James each had 30 points, but Corey Maggette complemented Brand’s offense with 24 points—something James couldn’t count on from his teammates. The Cavaliers are 5-4 when James scores at least 30.

“When we shoot the ball as bad as we’ve been shooting it, we’re not going to win too many games,” James said.

James gets significantly more endorsements and attention than Brand—the only NBA player in the top 10 in points, rebounds, blocked shots and field goal percentage. The three-year veteran who averaged 23.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots in November, was the first Clippers player selected for monthly honors since Freeman Williams in December 1980 when the team was based in San Diego.

As far as a potential rivalry developing between Brand and James, the Clippers power forward said he’d enjoy it.

“He’s East Coast, I’m West Coast. But he gets a lot of pub and I’ll like to take some of that pub away if they’re going to give it to me, definitely,” Brand said with a laugh.

James added: “It’s going to be kind of hard because, if Elton stays with the Clippers and I stay with the Cavs, we’ll only play each other twice a year. But I like what I see out of their team and out of their star player, Elton Brand. We’re an up-and-building team in the Eastern Conference, trying to be a powerhouse, and they’re the same thing in the West.”

The Cavaliers, who squandered a 34-point effort by James in Friday night’s loss at Seattle, have lost four of five following an eight-game winning streak.

James got off to a slow start, missing his first five shots and 12 of 15 before finishing 8-for-25. Los Angeles opened with a 20-4 run while Cleveland made only one of its first 14 shots. The Cavaliers shot 34.8 percent overall against the Clippers, who came in with the stingiest field-goal percentage defense in the league.

“I was fired up. I was ready,” Brand said. “I wanted to come and attack early, get us a lead and protect our home court. They played last night and I’m sure they were a little tired, so we wanted to hop right on them, play our defensive sets, and Coach had us prepared for them. Every play that they ran, we knew where to be.”

Maggette blocked a layup by Donyell Marshall, leading to a dunk by Chris Wilcox that gave Los Angeles an 82-68 lead with 9:09 to play. Zydrunas Ilgauskas converted two fouls by Kaman into three-point plays, then hit a short baseline hook shot that sliced the margin to 88-80 with 5:16 left. But the Cavaliers got no closer, as Brand scored six points in a 1:45 span to give Los Angeles a 96-85 cushion with 2:28 remaining.

Brand and Maggette combined for 26 points in the first half to help Los Angeles build a 52-39 lead. The Clippers committed only one turnover in the first 20 minutes, on a bad pass by Wilcox in the frontcourt with 8:12 left in the second quarter.

Notes

The Cavaliers committed just five turnovers, after averaging 14.5 through their first 15 games. … The Clippers will face Miami on Monday night at Staples Center wearing retro Buffalo Braves uniforms. The franchise spent its first eight seasons in upstate New York before moving to California in 1978-79. … Cavaliers G Damon Jones was a ballboy for Houston in 1994-95 when Cassell helped the Rockets win an NBA title. … Cleveland F Anderson Varejao, recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated right shoulder, is on the trip and practicing with the team. But February is still the target for his return.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Cleveland
L. James L. James
8-25,  30 Pts
5 Rebs, 6 Assists
 LA Clippers
C. Kaman C. Kaman
6-8,  12 Pts
19 Rebs, 2 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists