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CLIPPERS

Chris Kaman gives a big boost to the Clippers

Center returns from an ankle problem and scores 21 points in L.A.'s 90-82 victory over Chicago. Gordon scores 24.

February 03, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Chicago — Chris Kaman wants to sleep in his own bed.

His ankle hurts and his team has been on the road for two weeks, suffering meltdowns in single-digit locales such as Minnesota and Cleveland.

So what transpired Tuesday night at the United Center made it feel like sweet home Chicago for the 7-footer.

The Clippers center notched a double-double in his return from a sprained left ankle and helped his team stifle the Chicago Bulls during a 90-82 victory that ended a losing streak at four games.

Kaman scored 21 points on 10-for-20 shooting and had 11 rebounds as the Clippers earned their first victory in 14 games on the road against teams with .500 or better records. They held the Bulls to 38% shooting after their previous three opponents had shot better than 50%.

"We have great players on this team, guys who can really play the game, and I think we kind of get ahead of ourselves sometimes and think too much," said Kaman, who had sat out the previous two games. "And we just have to go out there and play, and I think we did that."

Kaman's 15-foot jump shot on the game's first possession gave the Clippers their first lead in more than 11 quarters. They never trailed after forward Marcus Camby made a 17-foot shot midway through the first quarter, building leads as large as 18 points.

Shooting guard Eric Gordon scored 24 points and forward Rasual Butler had 16 for the Clippers, who attributed their offensive proficiency in large part to Kaman's return.

"He gives us another scorer out there, a guy who can command double-teams and we can play out of it, and it creates a lot of open shots for everybody," said Camby, who put together an impressive all-around line with 11 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, four steals and three assists. "So hopefully with him back we can start to roll."

Chicago had just become the first team in NBA history to win five consecutive games on the road against winning teams, but their return home was hardly triumphant. Forward Luol Deng scored the Bulls' first 12 points, but he could muster only six points afterward.

There was a sense of focus and determination early on for the Clippers that had been absent in recent losses. For the first time in four games, they did not fall behind by double digits in the first quarter.

"Sometimes you get tired of losing," point guard Baron Davis said.

Camby was also a big part of the turnaround, emphatically blocking shots by Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah early in the third quarter and making two steals late in the quarter that helped the Clippers build an insurmountable 78-60 lead.

"It's good to see an old man be able to sacrifice his body to create steals and provide opportunities on offense for everybody," Gordon deadpanned as he watched Camby dress at his locker nearby.

The Clippers improved to 2-5 on a season-long eight-game trip that had threatened to derail their season after losses to New Jersey and Minnesota, two last-place teams. Coach Mike Dunleavy said three wins would qualify as a "somewhat successful" trip, meaning the Clippers could accomplish that Wednesday in Atlanta.

Another victory would also give Kaman and the Clippers something to savor before returning to Southern California.

"We definitely have to take care of business," Kaman said, "and then we can worry about the beds."

Etc.

Even though he played a productive 40 minutes, Kaman said he still felt somewhat limited.

"My explosiveness wasn't really there," he said. "It's kind of frustrating a little bit of times going to the hole and I couldn't really get off that leg."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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