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Clippers Don't Get Results

Pro basketball: Better team play doesn't work as Mavericks are simply too much in 115-90 rout.

April 05, 2002|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DALLAS — The Clippers showed up, played with energy and passion, seemed to enjoy each other's company on the basketball court and still got thumped by 25 points. File it under the category: this stuff happens.

After all, the Clippers are virtually out of the playoff race and don't have much left to play for. Their opponents Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks, are playing for the Midwest Division championship and the best possible record they can achieve.

In other words, the Clippers' 115-90 loss to the Mavericks before a sellout crowd of 20,050 at the American Airlines Center was fairly predictable. It was, however, a giant leap forward from Wednesday's lackluster performance against the Utah Jazz at Salt Lake City.

There was no bickering and there were few lapses in judgment or maturity Thursday. The Clippers played hard and simply lost to a superior team reaching its peak.

In fact, the Clippers were within 78-73 early in the fourth quarter before the Mavericks finished with a 37-17 run. This was more about what the Mavericks accomplished than what the Clippers failed to do during their third consecutive loss and sixth in the last seven games.

"They have a lot of weapons," Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry said of Midwest-leading Dallas. "I thought we played well in the first half. We did a pretty good job, but we had a breakdown on screen and rolls. I thought our effort was good, but we gave up too many points in the second half. And we didn't score like we did against them earlier in the season."

It was the first time in four games the Clippers failed to reach 100 points in splitting the season series with Dallas. Center Michael Olowokandi led the Clippers with 19 points but did not start because he missed the team breakfast. It didn't seem to matter, though, because Olowokandi helped get the Clippers out to an 11-point lead in the first quarter.

Dirk Nowitzki couldn't guard Olowokandi in the first half. Neither could Raef LaFrentz. Or Evan Eschmeyer.

So Dallas Coach Don Nelson turned to Shawn Bradley--all 7 feet 6 of him. Bradley will never be confused with a future hall of famer, but by holding, pushing and generally annoying Olowokandi for most of 41/2 minutes late in the second quarter, he helped the Mavericks take their first lead.

Olowokandi torched the Mavericks for 13 points in the first half, but he scored only three after Bradley entered the game with Dallas trailing, 40-35. By halftime, after guard Steve Nash darted through the Clippers to score with mere seconds to play, the Mavericks held their first lead, 44-43.

Things stayed tight until the fourth, when the Mavericks surged.

The Clippers opened the final quarter on a 5-0 run, drawing within 78-73 on two free throws by Elton Brand with 10:41 remaining. Brand would score 13 points and take nine rebounds, failing in his bid to match Swen Nater's franchise record with 54 double-doubles in a season.

Over the next 31/2 minutes, Dallas outscored the Clippers, 21-6, warming up for Saturday's showdown with the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavericks also would outscore the fading Clippers, 37-22, in the fourth quarter.

"The defense was great," Dallas guard Nick Van Exel said. "The Clippers didn't get as many open looks at the basket. We slowed Olowokandi down. We changed our defensive mind-set and we tried to get him out of the game as best we could and make other players beat us."

The other Clippers struggled to find any consistency. Corey Maggette was typical of the Clippers. Maggette made several strong moves to the hoop, but was one of five from behind the three-point arc.

The Clippers missed 14 of 18 three-pointers Thursday, a night after missing 13 of 14 in their 99-87 loss against Utah. The Clippers shot 43% against the Mavericks, an improvement over their 37.8%-shooting against the Jazz.

"They just outplayed us in the second half," Gentry said of the Mavericks. "They got some separation on us. They made some plays and we didn't."

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