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Mavericks, without Nowitzki, still cruise

All-Star forward serves a one-game suspension, but Howard picks up the slack with 29 points and nine rebounds to lead the rout. / DALLAS 98, CLIPPERS 76

December 29, 2008|Lisa Dillman

Bring on the lottery.

Unfortunately, this is still a basketball season, not an episode of "Star Trek," where the Clippers could simply beam themselves forward to April 16 and skip over the next 53 games.

The Christmas break did not bring anything in the way of good news for the Clippers, and in fact, it was more discouraging than previously thought.

Zach Randolph (bruised left knee) could be out for two weeks or possibly longer, and it appears unlikely the Clippers will get Chris Kaman (strained left arch) and Ricky Davis (knee tendinitis) back before mid-January.

The Clippers could have used former guard Cuttino Mobley, who attended the game after retiring from the NBA on Dec. 11 because of a heart condition.

But Mobley was not available and the Clippers' fortunes did not change on the court Sunday and they suffered yet another blowout loss even though their opponent was without its leading scorer because of a one-game suspension.

Dallas defeated the Clippers, 98-76, at Staples Center without Dirk Nowitzki, who earlier in the day was assessed the penalty by the NBA for having hit Utah Jazz forward Matt Harpring in the face in the fourth quarter of the teams' game Friday.

Josh Howard stepped up and had 29 points, nine rebounds and a career-high seven assists for the Mavericks, who outrebounded the Clippers, 53-38. The Clippers (8-21) have lost their last three games, starting in Milwaukee, by margins of 34, 22 and 22 points.

The Clippers missed their first seven shots, shot 24% in the first quarter and never led in the game. Just think how lopsided it might have been with Nowitzki firing away.

"We had to do a lot of things by committee and Josh Howard was great, just great," Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle said.

And the Clippers' committee?

Well, it is so depleted that assistant coach Fred Vinson had to suit up for practice after the Christmas break.

"It's crazy," Randolph said.

He was talking about his own injury, but he could have easily been speaking about the Clippers' star-crossed season. One reinforcement surfaced before the Mavericks game, with the Clippers signing free-agent guard Fred Jones.

Jones most recently played with the New York Knicks, averaging 7.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season.

He also played with Randolph in Portland, and was traded to New York along with Randolph.

With bodies at a premium, Jones played 22 minutes and had eight points and two assists.

"Once you get to it, it is basketball. You've just got to use your instincts a little bit and try to fit in," Jones said. "I was in there yesterday and they showed me a few of the sets. Like 20 minutes of work. My teammates did a good job of trying to point me in the right direction."

Said Coach Mike Dunleavy: "For not having a practice, pretty good. Freddy knows how to play and he has some skills and put the ball on the floor, and could shoot the ball some and defends pretty good. I think he's a pretty solid player, so I was pleased."

For the Clippers, Al Thornton scored 16 points, and Marcus Camby had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Baron Davis, who missed his five shots in the first half, finished with 10 points and was four for 13.

"I don't think we're playing with enough fire," Davis said. 'We're playing in spurts. I don't know what to tell you guys. I wish I had an answer. I don't have an answer. . . .

"We scored 37 points [actually 34] in the first half. If you shoot 0 for 5, it's sort of like those five shots are so valuable. We've got to figure out a way to speed the game up and get more possessions. So we're not relying on each and every shot opportunity. So we can get easy buckets. That's what we're not getting, fastbreak points. We've got to find a way to score more points.

"When you miss shots, and you're not scoring, and you're playing in the low numbers, it's almost for every shot, it's magnified by three."

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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