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Clippers get one to grow on

January 24, 2009|Lisa Dillman

How exactly did the Clippers reach win No. 10 after 42 games?

A) By fighting through with a rag-tag, depleted lineup, which got even lighter when the starting point guard left the game with an injury in the first quarter and did not return.

B) With a career night from a young shooting guard, fondly known among teammates as The Hobbit, who recorded the most points for a rookie in Clippers history.

C) By surviving an offensive onslaught from a star forward flirting with 50 points.

D) All of the above.

The stars finally aligned for the star-crossed Clippers on Friday night. They watched point guard Mardy Collins leave the game with a strained left calf in the opening minutes, received a career-high 41 points from rookie guard Eric Gordon and 34 from second-year forward Al Thornton, survived a one-man attack named Kevin Durant and his career-high 46 points, and hung on for a 107-104 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center.

"I wanted to win this game so bad," Gordon said during his on-court TV interview.

It wasn't just about impressing voters for the NBA's rookie All-Star game, and Gordon was down to his second-to-last shot to do so, with the voting deadline Monday. Assistant coaches in the NBA vote on that team as well as the All-Star teams for second-year players.

"I don't get to vote for my guy," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They'd have a hard time leaving him off."

So much for Gordon's individual duel against another rookie guard, former UCLA standout Russell Westbrook. Westbrook had 11 points, shooting four for 13 from the field. Gordon was 12 for 19, which included five three-pointers.

Gordon glossed over his individual performance in talking about his hunger to win this one. "Because we haven't won that many games," he said.

He was talking about a short-handed team, which is a vast understatement. Brian Skinner showed up at the morning shoot-around, suffering from a virus, and was sent home when he came to Staples Center to be evaluated.

The last thing the Clippers needed was for the virus to spread and take down more players.

After all . . .

"We have to field a team," said assistant general manager Neil Olshey.

They had nine players to begin the night. It reached eight after Collins' injury and grew dire when rookie center DeAndre Jordan got into foul trouble in the second half.

Which meant the lightly used Cheikh Samb, out of necessity, had to play 23 minutes.

They had hoped for an early return from Marcus Camby (sprained left ankle). But that turned out to be wishful thinking.

Camby went the full practice on Thursday. But the problem came Friday morning.

"It ballooned up again," he said. "I was just going out there to gauge it and see how it was going to be. Once I had the adrenaline going, I was out there playing and playing.

"I thought I was going to be good -- till I woke up. I was trying to push it and get back out there on the court. I wouldn't call it a setback because they said I was going to be out a whole lot longer.

"I knew it was going to hurt [Friday]. When I saw the swelling, I knew something wasn't right."

Etc.

The Lamar Odom controversy may not be over just yet.

A quick refresher: Early in the fourth quarter of the Lakers-Clippers game Wednesday night, Odom dunked and hung on the rim with one hand and grabbed his crotch with the other.

Olshey said Friday that he called the league to complain and urged them to take a look at the provocative action, wondering how the three game officials didn't see it.

Olshey said he had not heard anything back from league officials.

Don't expect his BlackBerry to ping any time soon.

After all, it's a Lakers world.

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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