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Kaman Is All Aboard in Win

Clipper center has 23 rebounds, a career high, and 24 points, four steals, three blocks as L.A. beats Minnesota, 95-87.

March 14, 2006|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Don't be fooled by Chris Kaman's lumbering stride and chaotic hairstyle.

The 7-foot center is among the NBA's rising players at his position, and he had his best performance of the season Monday night to lead the Clippers to a 95-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center.

Kaman scored 24 points, blocked three shots and established career-high totals with 23 rebounds and four steals.

"Rebounding and defensively, yes, it was my best game," said the third-year player, who averages 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds. "I had a lot of energy the whole game. I didn't think I shot real well, but I was patient the whole game."

Kaman's presence in the middle helped the Clippers tighten their defense and overcome a 10-point second-half deficit for their sixth victory when trailing by double digits.

The Clippers also got 17 points from Sam Cassell, and Elton Brand fared well against Minnesota's Kevin Garnett in a matchup of All-Star power forwards.

Brand had 14 points and 11 rebounds -- his team-leading 35th double-double. Garnett had 13 points and 16 rebounds, but was held without a field goal in the final 22 minutes.

It was the Clippers' fourth consecutive victory and the 500th of Coach Mike Dunleavy's career. With 20 games remaining, the Clippers (37-25) matched their victory total of last season and again improved to a season-high 12 games above .500. The Timberwolves (26-37) have lost five straight.

Much is going right for the Clippers, and Kaman's performance topped the list.

"Chris Kaman was awesome with 24 points and 23 rebounds," said Dunleavy, 500-514 in stints with the Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Clippers. "He just claimed everything. He was huge for us, and we needed it."

Said guard Shaun Livingston: "It's not a surprise. He's a force down there."

Kaman's previous highest rebound total was 22 against the Charlotte Bobcats in a 97-88 victory Dec. 23 at Charlotte. He also scored 22 points in that game.

He had 22 points and eight rebounds in Saturday's victory at Milwaukee.

Monday, Kaman had 19 defensive rebounds and made 10 of 12 free-throw attempts.

"Kaman was the story of the night," said guard Ricky Davis, who led Minnesota with 20 points. "We came in expecting to hit the boards hard and he killed us.

"He had 23 rebounds. It's tough anytime somebody is playing like that."

Cuttino Mobley had 12 points and nine rebounds, helping the Clippers outrebound the Timberwolves, 47-33.

Despite Kaman's 13 points and eight rebounds in the first half, the Timberwolves led, 54-48, at halftime. They extended it to 60-50 on Garnett's turnaround jumper with 10 minutes to play in the third.

And then the Clippers applied more pressure on defense, cutting their deficit to 72-69 to start the fourth. They took their first lead of the second half, 80-77, on Vladimir Radmanovic's three-pointer from the right corner with 6:53 to play.

Corey Maggette, who scored 15 points off the bench, had a key three-point play in the quarter, and consecutive shots by Kaman and Cassell gave the Clippers an 89-85 lead with 2:02 left.

Brand's jumper extended the lead to 91-86 with about a minute left, and Quinton Ross' steal and layup off an inbounds pass sealed the victory.

"It gives testament to our defense," Dunleavy said of the victory. "It was playoff conditions ... it was a very physical game. You have to gear up for that in the playoffs.

"You can't rely on whistles. You have to be physical, and our bigs did a much better job of that in the second half."

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