So does Elton Brand, whose 32 points and nine rebounds helped the Clippers rout Washington 116-101 on Saturday for their 40th victory of the season. The 1974-75 Buffalo Braves, whose retro uniforms the Clippers wore against the Wizards, won 49 games. The Clippers need to go 9-5 the rest of the way to equal that mark.
“You’d love to win 50 games, but we’ve got to take it to the first step— which is getting into the playoffs,” said Dunleavy, who reached the 50-win mark once with the Lakers and twice with Portland.
“I’m really more concerned with just doing whatever we’ve got to do to get in. Once we clinch a playoff position, then it’s going to be really more about getting ready for the playoffs and putting ourselves in a position to play well.”
Sam Cassell scored 26 points for the Clippers, who have recorded 40 wins for only the third time in the last 27 seasons and the first time since 1992-93 under Larry Brown. Chris Kaman added 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Antawn Jamison scored 31 points for the Wizards, who had beaten the Clippers eight of the previous 10 times they faced each other in Los Angeles. Gilbert Arenas, who averaged 34 points in the two games against the Clippers last season, had 17 points after getting 18 against them in a 102-97 loss on Nov. 9 at Washington.
“They did a good job not letting me get free for easy baskets,” Arenas said. “They’re more mobile than other teams. Their 4s and 5s can actually help and get back and recover. With most teams we’re playing, if I do a screen-and-roll with somebody, that guy is not recovering. But against these guys, basically, it’s not even worth doing screen-and-rolls.”
Coming off a 109-97 victory at Utah in which they set a club-record for 3-point baskets with 16, the Wizards were just 5-for-24 from behind the arc against the Clippers. Arenas was 1-for-7 on 3s, and 5-for-16 overall.
“We had our work cut out for us. But we did a magnificent job just locating him early and making things tough for him,” Cassell said. “You’re not going to stop Gilbert because he’s a great scorer. And with him and Jamison out there making every difficult shot, it’s definitely a tough matchup.”
Cuttino Mobley was scratched because of a sprained right ankle, forcing the Clippers to use their 14th different starting lineup. Corey Maggette made his first start at small forward since Dec. 5 and scored 19 points in 32 minutes.
Maggette had come off the bench in 11 consecutive games after being sidelined for the previous 39 because of a separated ligament in his left foot. He complained to reporters at Friday’s practice about not starting and playing limited minutes behind Quinton Ross.
“I knew it was coming,” Dunleavy said. “We’ve had a little disagreement, based on readiness. I think a sign that he’s ready would be if he’s shooting the ball better from the outside, where he has his legs. He still attacks the rim and does some good things, but he’s only shooting 25 percent from the 3-point line—so further out is where he struggles.
“It’s my judgment call,” Dunleavy added. “It’s all about the team right now, and I’m going to play the guys who I think are going to help us win the most right now. So the first thing I want to see from him is a better defensive effort and the ability to keep people in front of him. He did OK tonight, but a couple of games on the road trip, I didn’t think he did so great.”
Jamison made the first basket of the game, and Washington never led again. Los Angeles built its lead to 76-52 with a 20-5 run capped by Cassell’s 3-pointer with 8 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. The Clippers began their game-breaking rally by scoring the final seven points of the first half, and the Wizards got no closer than 10 points after Billy Thomas’ 3-pointer capped a 17-5 run.
The Wizards also wore throwback uniforms from the franchise’s era as the Baltimore Bullets. Baltimore was 11-5 against Buffalo, back when current Wizards broadcaster Phil Chenier played for the Bullets. … The Wizards are 0-5 in the old colors. “They look nice, but we don’t like playing in them,” Arenas said.