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A Brave New Clipper World

A 100-86 win at Denver puts them up, 3-1, and on the verge of winning a playoff series for first time since moving from Buffalo to California.

April 30, 2006|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — Forget about their lack of playoff experience and bleak history, the Clippers are on the verge of breaking more new ground.

They moved closer to winning their first playoff series in California on Saturday night with a 100-86 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 at the Pepsi Center.

The Clippers took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, and only one victory separates them from their biggest accomplishment of many this season.

They could end the Nuggets' season in Game 5 on Monday at Staples Center, and the Clippers said that sounded like a plan.

"The sense of history ... it's just a special thing," said power forward Elton Brand, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. "Monday night at Staples, if we can compete like we have, and play on defense like we did in Games 1, 2 and 4, we can win the series.

"That's something that hasn't been done in 30 years. And that's the most important thing for us right now."

The franchise has not won a postseason series since the Buffalo Braves defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 1976 Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Clippers could soon change that.

"We need to play, from this point on, like it's an NCAA tournament game," Denver Coach George Karl said. "Lose one game, and you're out."

The Clippers put it together Saturday after struggling in many areas during Thursday's 94-87 loss in Game 3 here, taking an 11-point halftime lead and going ahead by as many as 23 in the second half.

Clipper reserves provided first-unit production.

Swingman Corey Maggette scored 19 points to lead seven players in double figures. Backup point guard Shaun Livingston contributed 16 points, six assists and six rebounds in a performance among the best of his brief career, and center Chris Kaman, slowed because of a viral illness, had 12 points and five rebounds.

The Clippers again contained Denver star forward Carmelo Anthony, who continued to shoot poorly in the series and fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Quinton Ross and Cuttino Mobley led the defensive effort against Anthony, who missed 12 of 17 shots from the field while scoring 17 points. Anthony, the Nuggets' No. 1 option, is shooting 33.3% in the four games.

"Defensively, we were pretty good," Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They made some shots, their guys are going to make shots, but we got the results we wanted."

Moreover, the Clippers did their best job of boxing out, limiting the Nuggets to eight offensive rebounds, their lowest total in the series. The Clippers also reduced their turnovers to 18 from 25 in Game 3.

"We were just in tune with what we had to do," Maggette said. "We knew that the last game, we lost mostly because of turnovers and their offensive rebounds. We just made an effort not to let that happen."

Mission accomplished.

"Our guys did a great job tonight," Dunleavy said. "There was no area I was not pleased with, and Shaun Livingston was spectacular."

Livingston, who received fluid intravenously after the game, took charge from the moment he entered for starter Sam Cassell late in the first quarter, being aggressive on offense while also running the team well.

He made jump shots, scored on nifty post moves, penetrated and kept his teammates involved while Cassell, who scored 11 points, got an extended break.

"There was a point they wanted to put me back in the game, and I told Mike to let him play," Cassell said. "This is good for Shaun. This is on-the-job experience.

"He was exhausted, he was a little tired after the game, but he's never played at this level. He ran this ballclub, he made me proud

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