LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Clippers were a happy bunch after putting an end to a 30-year drought.
But there was a limit to their joy, since they believe there’s a lot more they can accomplish.
Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette each scored 23 points, Elton Brand added 21 points and 13 rebounds, and the Clippers took command in the third quarter to beat the Denver Nuggets 101-83 Monday night and win the first-round best-of-seven Western Conference series 4-1.
Mobley pumped his fists repeatedly in the final minute, and his teammates waved at the Staples Center fans, who stood and cheered as the final seconds ticked off.
“We’ve got to keep winning,” Mobley said afterward in a somewhat subdued locker room.
“I saw what we had in training camp,” fellow newcomer Sam Cassell said. “This team was in a lot of games last year. They just didn’t have guys to finish games.”
They do now, in the veteran backcourt combo of Mobley and Cassell, but finishing wasn’t an issue in the series finale.
The Clippers hadn’t won a playoff series since 1976, when the team was playing in Buffalo and beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round before losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The franchise moved to San Diego in 1978, then to Los Angeles in 1984. The Clippers are in the playoffs for just the seventh time in their 36-year history, only the fourth time since heading west, and the first time in nine years.
The four wins in these playoffs matched the total for the Clippers in their previous playoff appearances while playing in Los Angeles. The franchise was 13-22 in the postseason entering these playoffs, including 9-13 while playing in Buffalo.
“For the organization, it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” said third-year coach Mike Dunleavy. “It’s been a long time since this has happened. But for me, it’s the vision I had. My philosophy through it all is you have to defend to be good.”
And defend the Clippers did, holding the Nuggets under 40 percent from the floor in four of the five games in this series.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Brand, who played in 544 regular-season games before making his playoff debut April 22. “It’s still kind of surreal. I might not appreciate it until we start the second round.”
The Clippers meet the winner of the Lakers-Suns series. The Lakers take a 3-1 lead into Tuesday night’s game in Phoenix.
Should the Clippers face the Lakers, it would be the first postseason meeting ever between Los Angeles teams in the NBA, NFL or major league baseball.
Cassell was one Clipper who made it clear who he’d like to face next.
“I was always a Laker fan—Magic Johnson, James Worthy, my main man Norm Nixon,” Cassell said. “Kobe Bryant’s my favorite player. It would be the battle of Hollywood—it would be great for the city.”
Cassell and Chris Kaman scored 10 points apiece and Shaun Livingston had eight points and 14 assists for the Clippers. Maggette, Brand, Kaman and Livingston are making their postseason debuts this spring.
“We definitely kept him in check,” Brand said of Anthony, who shot 8-of-24 Monday night.
The Nuggets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.
“This one hurts worse than the other two,” Anthony said. “We have issues. I saw guys who did not want to be here and play in this game. We did not play playoff basketball in this series.
“I don’t want to be like Kevin Garnett and take eight years to get out of the first round.”
The Nuggets haven’t won a playoff series since 1994.
“It’s definitely disappointing and frustrating not to get out of the first round,” said Denver’s Marcus Camby, who had six points and 11 rebounds. “We had dreams of winning the championship.”
The Nuggets shot 6-of-9 to start the third quarter while outscoring the Clippers 14-9 to draw within one point.
But that’s as close as the Nuggets would get.
Maggette and Brand each scored six points and Mobley added four in a 20-3 run to finish the third period and start the fourth, giving the Clippers a 75-57 lead. The Nuggets shot 1-of-12 during the spurt.
The Clippers led by as many as 25 points in the final period.
The Clippers outscored the Nuggets 17-8 to finish the second quarter for a 46-40 halftime lead, and they were on top the rest of the way.
Clippers C Zeljko Rebraca was inactive for the game after feeling chest pains during warmups. He missed 50 games while playing for Detroit in the 2002-03 season because of an irregular heartbeat, and 24 earlier this season for the same reason. He said he wasn’t concerned, adding: “Everything is under control.” … Brand, who scored all but three of his points in the second half, was presented with the Joe Dumars Trophy as the NBA Sportsmanship Award winner before the game. … Denver’s Reggie Evans was fined $10,000 and assessed a flagrant foul penalty two for what the NBA called “unnecessary and excessive conduct” with Kaman in Saturday night’s game. … The Nuggets averaged 100.3 points per game during the regular season, but only 87.4 in this series.