Clippers 118, Lakers 110

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—The old guy, bad back and all, came to the rescue of the Los Angeles Clippers when they needed it the most.

Sam Cassell had eight points and three assists in the fourth quarter, helping the Clippers rally from a 10-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 118-110 on Thursday night for their most significant win of the season.

Corey Maggette scored a career-high 39 points and Elton Brand added 32, but Cassell was the steadying influence down the stretch as the Clippers outscored the Lakers 26-8 to win going away.

“He did a great job just controlling the tempo for us and making the right plays,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.

“Sam Cassell hits big shots, gets to the foul line, makes passes,” Brand said. “When we have our team, win a big game like this, it feels great.”

Cassell returned to action after missing four games because of back spasms. He has played in 54 of the Clippers’ 79 games this season.

The Clippers won despite Kobe Bryant’s 50 points, but Bryant was held scoreless after making two foul shots with 8:46 remaining to give the Lakers a 102-92 lead.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Clippers (38-40), who moved into a tie with Golden State for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference with four games remaining. Both teams trail the seventh-place Lakers by 1 1/2 games.

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the New Jersey Nets 94-76 in the only other NBA action Thursday night.

Cassell appeared uncomfortable while scoring two points in 6 first-half minutes. It was a different story in the second half, when he played 14 minutes, including all but 51 seconds of the final period.

“I had to get warmed up,” said Cassell, who finished with 12 points. “This is strange for me, coming off the bench. The second half, I tried to keep warm. Tim Thomas told me to fight through it.

“I don’t mind having the ball down the stretch. I can be a decoy and I can make a shot. It was a big win for us.”

When asked how he felt as he sat in front of his locker, the 37-year-old veteran broke into a wide grin and said: “Ask me tomorrow.”

Bryant’s nine 50-point games this season are the most in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain scored at least 50 nine times in the 1964-65 season. Chamberlain averaged a record 50.4 points three years earlier.

Bryant shot 17-of-33 from the floor and made all 15 of his free throws. He also had nine rebounds while playing all 48 minutes.

Maggette, whose previous career high was 38 points, shot 10-of-15 from the field. He also had eight rebounds and nine assists to match his career high. Brand scored 22 of his points after halftime, and added 12 rebounds and seven assists.

Smush Parker had 19 points and eight assists and Maurice Evans scored 11 for the Lakers (40-39), who led by as many as 17 points before losing for the seventh time in nine games.

“We got a lead and I guess we got comfortable,” Lakers forward Luke Walton said. “We knew we were playing a team that was desperate. When you’re playing a team that’s desperate, you can’t let up.”

Maggette said that while Bryant is one of the NBA’s best-conditioned athletes, he thought the Lakers’ star ran out of gas.

Bryant didn’t agree.

“I felt fine physically. I felt like I could go the distance,” said Bryant, who missed his last six field goal attempts. “I didn’t feel like my legs were heavy. I didn’t feel tired at all. They just double-teamed me and triple-teamed me. You’ve got the advantage when that happens. But we didn’t make the plays and they did.”

Kwame Brown missed his fifth game with a bone bruise in his left ankle. The Lakers have lost four of those five games. It’s unclear when he’ll return, although Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressed the hope it will be before the regular season ends next Wednesday.

“That was a disappointment tonight,” Jackson said. “Kobe tired—had to take some tough shots and we couldn’t ride that thing in the fourth quarter.”

Cavaliers 94, Nets 76

LeBron James scored 35 points in 36 minutes and Larry Hughes added 19 points for host Cleveland in its one-sided win over New Jersey.

The Cavaliers (47-32) are tied with Chicago for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with three games remaining.

Vince Carter scored 26 points to lead New Jersey. A victory would have reduced the Nets’ magic number to one for clinching a sixth straight playoff appearance. But they were out of synch offensively and got eight points from Jason Kidd and five from Richard Jefferson.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 LA Clippers
C. Maggette C. Maggette
10-15,  39 Pts
8 Rebs, 9 Assists
 LA Lakers
K. Bryant K. Bryant
17-33,  50 Pts
9 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Thursday, Apr 12