Clippers 98, SuperSonics 76
Cassell scored 21 points in just 19 minutes, and Brand added 22 as the Clippers routed the Seattle SuperSonics 98-76.
Cassell was so good—hitting all five of his 3-point attempts—that the 37-year-old veteran rested the entire second and fourth quarters. The Clippers led by as many as 37, winning for the fifth time in their last six and impressively bouncing back from Saturday night’s 14-point home loss to Minnesota.
“I just made some shots tonight. Shots I wanted to take yesterday I didn’t take them, but I took them tonight and made them,” Cassell said. “We had to come out aggressive.”
Cassell and the rest of the Clippers combined to make a season-high 11 3-pointers, exploiting Seattle’s zone defense. Cassell sparked the Clippers with 13 points in the first quarter, making all three of his 3-point attempts in the quarter.
When the Sonics went to a smaller, speedier lineup in the second half to try and rally, the Clippers turned to Brand, who made 8 of 9 shots in the third quarter, scoring 16 points in just 10 minutes. For most of the quarter, Brand was matched up against skinny, 6-foot-7 rookie Mickael Gelabale.
Brand easily won that battle.
“They went really, really small and we just tried to take advantage,” Brand said. “They were quicker, they were pressing but we felt we had a matchup on the inside.”
Ray Allen led Seattle with 15 points, but the Sonics suffered through three quarters of poor shooting. Seattle shot 32.9 percent, but outscored the Clippers 20-9 in the fourth quarter and made the final more respectable.
Reserve Mike Wilks’ 31-footer as the third quarter ended drew the largest cheers, but only cut the Clippers’ lead to 33. Johan Petro scored 11 for the Sonics, who finished their longest homestand of the season 4-3.
“As a coach, sometimes you think before a game, `What if we don’t shoot well?’ It doesn’t happen very often, but this might be the worst I’ve ever been a part of,” Seattle coach Bob Hill said. “We just couldn’t make a shot.”
After staking the Clippers to an early lead, Cassell sat by and watched Seattle’s shooting woes continue, allowing Los Angeles’ reserves to build the lead to as many as 24 points on Shaun Livingston’s uncontested dunk late in the half. The Sonics got two free throws in the final second of the quarter to finally top the 30-point mark.
Los Angeles extended its lead in the third quarter against an undersized Seattle lineup trying to use speed to rally. Brand also added seven rebounds and three steals. Chris Kaman had 15 rebounds.
“We’ve had some big leads and lost them. To really close a team out like this was big for us,” Brand said.
Seattle made just one field goal in an almost 6-minute span of the third, when Nick Collison stuck his hand in a crowd and tipped in a missed jumper. Seattle’s struggles were best defined by Gelabale’s wide-open missed dunk late in the period that bounced into the first row of seats.
“I didn’t think we were that bad,” Allen said. “It’s just that it snowballed and there wasn’t much we could do after a certain point.”
The Clippers defense neutralized Allen, often bringing Seattle’s offense to a standstill, causing the Sonics to take forced, closely guarded shots late in the shot clock.
Allen shot 5-of-11, but the rest of Seattle’s lineup shot a combined 20-of-65. Seattle missed 14 of 18 shots in the second quarter, and at one point late in the first half had more turnovers (11) than field goals made (10).
“They’ve been a great shooting team,” Cassell said. “We just crowded and made Ray Allen work really hard. He made (four) free throws and that were the easiest shots he made.”
The Clippers biggest win this season was a 23-point win over Boston on Dec. 27. … Seattle plays four of the next five on the road. Seattle hasn’t won a road game since Nov. 22 at the Clippers, dropping 12 straight. … Seattle’s all-time low for points in a half is 25 on March 12, 2004, against Miami.