LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Clippers are aware they need to improve significantly in the next week or so if they’re to have any shot of being successful in the playoffs.
Playing the way they did Wednesday night won’t get it done.
Elton Brand scored 25 points, Sam Cassell added 19 points and 10 assists, and the Clippers struggled to a 97-93 victory over the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers to snap a three-game losing streak.
“Everyone on this team has to take a look in the mirror and be accountable for what they do,” Cassell said. “They dictated the whole game—probably 45 minutes. Down the stretch, we made some plays. It’s a win in our column, we had lost three in a row. We’ll take it.”
At 21-57, the Blazers have the worst record in the NBA. They’ve lost four in a row, 14 straight road games and 15 of 16 overall, but they extended the Clippers to the final seconds.
“The good news is we got a win,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “I was a little disappointed with the way we played, especially at the defensive end. We made a couple of their guys look like All-World tonight.”
By winning, the Clippers (45-33) remained a half-game behind Memphis in the Western Conference and equaled their highest win total since the 1975-76 season, when they went 46-36 while playing in Buffalo. They’ve already clinched their first playoff berth in nine years.
The Clippers moved to San Diego in 1978 and to Los Angeles in 1984. Their 45-37 record in the 1991-92 season was their best record since the move to California.
“It’s good to be a part of that,” Brand said. “We still have time to jell, to collect ourselves.
“That team is playing pretty loose. They came in and hit some shots and hung with us.”
Chris Kaman added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Cuttino Mobley scored 13 for the Clippers. Cassell, recovered from a bout with the flu that limited him to seven scoreless minutes in a 75-73 loss to Dallas on Monday night, also had six rebounds while playing nearly 38 minutes.
Miles was in uniform during the first half, but changed into street clothes at halftime. Blazers coach Nate McMillan made clear his displeasure afterward.
Regarding the game, McMillan said: “I think our young guys did all they could. We fought, we scrapped, I thought we played the 48 minutes together on both ends of the court. I thought we were a rebound away from possibly winning.”
Baskets by Shaun Livingston and Kaman put the Clippers ahead 81-74 with 7:21 remaining, matching the largest lead of the game for either team.
The Blazers battled back, and a layup by Jack with 13 seconds to play made it 93-91. Kaman made two free throws a little over a second later, but Jack scored again with 7.5 seconds left to make it a two-point game again. Two free throws by Mobley with 6.9 seconds to go completed the scoring.
Neither team led by more than five points in the third quarter, which ended with the Clippers on top 71-70.
Clippers F Corey Maggette missed his fourth game because of back spasms. Maggette said in a TV interview he has a herniated disc and team spokesman Joe Safety confirmed that, but added he has no idea how long Maggette will be sidelined. Maggette is averaging 17.8 points in 31 games. … Randolph, averaging 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds, Miles, averaging 14.1 points, and Przybilla, averaging 6.1 points and 7.0 rebounds, all sat out because of problems with their right knees. … The Clippers swept the season series with the Blazers for the first time ever, winning twice in Portland and once in Los Angeles. Portland entered the season having won 152 of the 204 games between the teams including 26 of the last 35. … The Clippers play three of their remaining four games on the road. Memphis (46-33) plays two of its last three on the road.