Kings 106, Clippers 96

Preview | Box Score | Recap

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—Six head coaches have failed to coax even one victory out of the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento over the last nine seasons.

And Mike Dunleavy’s own streak of futility is three years old and counting after the Clippers’ 106-96 loss to the Kings on Sunday night.

Not even the coach who finally turned these perennial losers into playoff contenders can solve the mystery of Arco Arena, where the Clippers have lost 16 straight games. But Dunleavy, who hasn’t even beaten the Kings in Los Angeles since taking over in 2003, hopes the latest loss is a lesson in the importance of preparation.

“Our guys were not prepared to come out and play,” Dunleavy said. “We had 22 turnovers and gave up seven offensive boards. That tells me that I’m wasting my breath. Sacramento didn’t pull any trick plays. We just let them take the game to us.”

The Kings don’t have time for such lessons: They’re still in a fierce fight for the conference’s last playoff berth. With another smooth effort against a playoff-bound opponent, the Kings maintained their eighth-place standing in the West, two games ahead of New Orleans and 1 1/2 behind the seventh-place Lakers.

Ron Artest scored 26 points, Brad Miller had 25 points and nine rebounds and the Kings beat the Clippers for the 12th straight time overall. Mike Bibby had 22 points and seven assists for the Kings, who trailed for just one possession.

Sacramento has no more explanation for its dominance in this matchup than the Clippers do.

“I don’t think it matters. Of those 16 wins, this team hasn’t been involved in 15 of them,” said Kings coach Rick Adelman, referring to his team’s wholesale personnel changes in the last year. “It’s only been one.”

Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 18 points in a reserve role for the Kings, who won their third straight after dropping consecutive home games last week to snap a 14-game winning streak at Arco. The Kings were back in top form for their only home game in a six-game stretch, leading by at least five points throughout the fourth quarter.

“I think we just match up well against this team,” said Bonzi Wells, who had seven points, seven assists and six rebounds. “We were just lucky enough we hit our shots and exploited the mismatches.”

Sam Cassell and Chris Kaman scored 20 points apiece for the Clippers, who clinched the sixth winning season in franchise history with a victory over Utah on Friday night.

Los Angeles is in fifth place in the Western Conference, but can’t get any higher—and the Clips have only inner motivation to finish strong in their final 10 games, since falling to sixth might be much better for their chances of going far in the playoffs.

The West’s fifth-place team probably will play powerful Dallas or San Antonio in the first round—but the sixth-place finishers probably will get a matchup with the Denver Nuggets, whose 41-33 record isn’t even as good as the Clippers’ 42-30 mark. Memphis is in sixth, just one game behind the Clippers.

Of course, that’s not how the Clippers are thinking.

“We need to have a different focus,” said Corey Maggette, who had 16 points and five turnovers. “If we settle for just making the playoffs, we’re going to get beat in the first round.”

Elton Brand had 16 points on 5-for-14 shooting and 13 rebounds for the Clippers, who haven’t won at Arco Arena since Nov. 7, 1997.

Sacramento scored the game’s first nine points and led by 14 early on, but Los Angeles came back with a 10-2 surge and took its first lead on Cuttino Mobley’s 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. Artest scored the next eight points on two free throws and two 3-pointers, and the Kings stayed comfortably ahead for the rest of the night.

Artest and Bibby hit four 3-pointers apiece.

Notes

Kaman set his career high with 25 points in the Clippers’ last visit to Sacramento. … The California rivals meet again at Staples Center on Friday night. … Kings G Kevin Martin returned after missing five games with a bruised thigh. He had six points and three rebounds. … Sacramento has the NBA’s toughest schedule over its final eight games, starting with back-to-back visits to Dallas and San Antonio this week.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 LA Clippers
E. Brand E. Brand
5-14,  16 Pts
13 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Sacramento
B. Miller B. Miller
9-13,  25 Pts
9 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists