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Clippers Flop in Latest Test

For the second game in a row, L.A. can't compete with a top-tier team, losing to Dallas, 101-81.

January 21, 2006|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Remember when the Clippers thought they were ready to challenge the NBA's best, or at least apply for entry into the club?

It seems only a distant memory now after they responded poorly this week against two teams among the league's elite, their latest flop occurring Friday night in the Dallas Mavericks' 101-81 victory at Staples Center.

The Mavericks (30-10), second in the Southwest Division, dominated on offense from the outset in their fourth consecutive victory and sixth in seventh games. The Western Conference's best road team (15-6) overwhelmed the Clippers with its superior talent and depth. Dallas led by as many as 26 points -- the Clippers' largest deficit of the season at Staples Center -- in the first half and took a 63-39 halftime lead. Power forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points to lead six Mavericks in double figures.

Dallas also got 44 points from its bench compared with 18 for the Clippers. Center Erick Dampier, who averaged 5.5 points beginning play Friday, scored 13 points.

The Mavericks also outworked the Clippers. Dampier had 12 rebounds and Nowitzki 11 as Dallas outrebounded the Clippers, 44-33.

Power forward Elton Brand had 19 points and a team-high 10 rebounds and point guard Sam Cassell led the Clippers with 23 points.

Only two nights after the Phoenix Suns, first in the Pacific Division, sprinted to a 10-point victory at Staples Center, the Mavericks also put on a show and provided much more for Coach Mike Dunleavy to fret about in today's film session.

The Clippers (20-16) still aspire to rise higher, but after consecutive blowout losses to top-tier teams, it appears they might lack the equipment for the climb.

"I was really disappointed in our focus tonight," Dunleavy said. "We did not come out and start this game the way we needed to. The team coming in here was 29-10, so that should be able to get your attention, and we did not do the job from a defensive standpoint -- from an effort standpoint -- that I require."

On Friday, Brand and Cassell again did what they could to help close the gap in the third, combining for 22 of the team's 26 points in the quarter as the Clippers pulled to within 81-65 to begin the fourth.

"It just goes to show that in the third quarter, when we got after it defensively, doing the things that we were supposed to do, the results we had," Dunleavy said. "But when you dig yourself a big hole like that, it's hard to come all the way back against a really good team."

As in Wednesday's loss to Phoenix, the Clipper comeback fell short.

"You have to play with some pride and some intensity," Brand said. "We came out and played hard in the third quarter, but you have to play from the start of the game like that. You can't get down that big in the first quarter and expect to play like that."

Said Cassell: "We have got to play with a swagger. We needed to play harder tonight. They're two of the top teams in the Western Conference. We are a young club that's trying to make strides. We'll take it as a learning experience and move on."

The Mavericks played a little too loose with a big lead and the Clippers pulled to within 13, 83-70, with 10:33 left on a three-point play by rookie forward James Singleton, whose role has expanded because of his energy.

Apparently sensing it was time to finish things, the Mavericks responded with a 12-2 run, extending their lead to 95-72 with 4:40 to play.

Some fans began moving toward the exits when Jerry Stackhouse made a three-pointer at the 5:50 mark, and more followed 35 seconds later when Nowitzki connected from beyond the arc, giving Dallas a 21-point cushion, 93-72.

"They made a run at us in the third quarter," Dallas Coach Avery Johnson said. "Cassell and Brand played a pretty good two-man game for a stretch, and we couldn't guard them."

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