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Clippers take first round in Battle of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The NBA's balance of power in Los Angeles
seems to be shifting.

Led by Elton Brand, the Clippers beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers
97-91 on Friday night.

Bryant, making some of his off-balance, high-arcing jumpers but
missing more often, scored 36 points on 12-of-35 shooting.

The win extended the Clippers' franchise-best start to 7-2 and
was their third victory in a row over their city rivals dating to
last season.

"The wins keep piling up. It's not about a rivalry," said
Brand, who had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. "If you ask
us, we think we're a better team. We have a better record, we're in
the same division, and it feels good to get out of here with this
one."

Bryant noted the Clippers' improvement.

"They made a lot of big changes this year. Their management
team went out there and made some big acquisitions and brought in
some very talented players along with the players that have been
here," Bryant said. "It is a good team."

Corey Maggette added 21 points, Cuttino Mobley had 20, and Sam
Cassell had 17 for the Clippers, who never trailed.

Both Cassell, who turned 36 Friday, and Mobley are newcomers
this season.

"Lakers versus Clippers is great for the fans and the community
and we just want to keep it going," Maggette said. "We wanted it.
It's great to beat the Lakers, so maybe we have some bragging
rights."

Lamar Odom had 18 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 4-5.

The Clippers and Lakers split their series 2-2 last season. The
Lakers lead the series 78-22 since the Clippers moved to Los
Angeles, and 124-42 in all games against the franchise.

The Clippers were ahead 74-65 heading into the fourth quarter,
and increased the lead to 78-65 before the Lakers began a comeback
that cut it to 87-82 with 2:54 remaining. But they got no closer.

Bryant scored 12 points in the fourth, but 10 of those came on
11 free throws. He was good on only one of his nine field goal
tries in the quarter.

"I think we are relying on me way too much and I am taking way
too many shots to try to keep us competitive," Bryant said. "We
really have to get back to the basics."

The Clippers shot 44 percent to the Lakers' 39 percent.

Bryant scored 13 points for the Lakers in the third, but his
teammates totaled only seven points in the period.

The Clippers were up 53-45 at halftime after leading 27-21 at
the end of the opening period.

Although they never led, the Lakers pulled even four times in
the first half, the last at 43 on Bryant's drive and free throw
4:03 before halftime.

Brand hit a 14-footer to put the Clippers back in front, and
they went on to open an eight-point lead over the closing four
minutes of the half.

Game notes
Lakers F Kwame Brown left in the third quarter with a right
hamstring strain. He had two points and eight rebounds. ... The
game drew a sellout crowd of 18,997 to Staples Center, where both
teams play, but it was the Lakers' home game. ... Lakers C Chris
Mihm has been playing on a sore left ankle, but didn't appear to be
slowed much. He had 12 points and nine rebounds. ... The Clippers
last won a season series against the Lakers in 1992-93, and had
done it just once before that, in 1974-75.