LOS ANGELES (AP)—Elton Brand doesn’t want to get too excited about the Clippers’ assuring themselves of their first winning season since 1991-92.
“It feels good, but we still have a lot more to accomplish,” Brand said Friday night after he and Sam Cassell scored 22 points apiece in a 106-91 victory for the Clippers’ 42nd victory of the season.
“But it’s a milestone we want to check off. I’m just glad the organization put the pieces around guys to enable us to win and compete at the highest level.”
Corey Maggette, who had 13 points in Los Angeles’ well-balanced scoring, said the Clippers have to strive to keep getting better.
“The thing we need to do now is not get complacent about 42,” he said. “The biggest thing now is to continue to play with the energy we play with, and prepare ourselves right now for the playoffs.”
The Clippers (42-29) had only five seasons above .500 since the franchise came into the league as the Buffalo Braves in 1970. They also had posted a winning record only twice since moving to California in 1978 and becoming the San Diego Clippers.
Brand went 10-for-15 from the floor, and Cassell was 7-for-11 and had six assists.
The game was the final meeting between the teams this regular season, and the Clippers won two of three to take the series for the first time since 1985-86.
Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy liked his team’s play after a loss to San Antonio earlier in the week.
“Defensively we were much better,” he said. “We were tougher and went after the ball better. It was important for us to get in the open court and create some easy baskets.
“We did a better job offensively, attack as opposed to settling at times. The board game was even in the second half, but we shot it better and we took care of the ball better, so it resulted in a win.”
The Jazz fell 2 1/2 games behind Sacramento for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans is in ninth place in the conference, a half-game ahead of Utah.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan seemed a bit disgusted with his team’s effort.
“You can’t play with your head down and just wallow through the game when you go against teams that know how to play—and this team knows how to play,” Sloan said. “They’re well-coached and do things well.
“They got in our faces a little harder and we didn’t stand up to it. That’s what’s happened to us all year long when we’ve been in tough situations.”
Ahead 53-52 to start the third quarter, Los Angeles opened a 82-67 led on Brand’s jumper with 25 seconds left in the period. The Clippers were up 82-69 heading into the fourth quarter and stayed comfortably in front.
Cassell had 18 points by halftime on 5-for-6 shooting, including making both his 3-pointers. He also had five assists. Brand had 12 points in the first half, and Los Angeles led 53-52.
Kirilenko scored 12 first-half points for Utah, and Harpring and Okur had 10 each. The Jazz trailed 47-37 with 2:51 left in the second quarter, but Harpring hit a pair of jumpers to help them begin closing the gap.
The Clippers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984. The team’s most wins ever were 49 in Buffalo in 1975-75. … Utah came in with two wins in a row, but still haven’t won three straight since Jan. 7-11. … The Clippers were at full strength, not missing any players due to injury or illness, for the second game in a row and only the second time this season. With everybody available first the first time, the Clippers were beaten 98-87 by San Antonio on Tuesday.