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Clippers prevail for first time in 10 meetings vs. Houston

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Tracy McGrady has proven he can score 60
points in a game. After giving up 25 to him in the first half, the
Los Angeles Clippers kept him from making it one of those games and
generated enough offense to beat the Houston Rockets.

Sam Cassell had 22 points, Elton Brand scored nine of his 20
points in the final 6 minutes, and the Clippers held McGrady to
2-for-12 shooting in the second half on Saturday to beat Houston
89-81 and snap the Rockets' five-game winning streak.

"Tracy's one of the best at scoring in bunches, so we tried to
contest his shots and make him take tough shots," Clippers guard
Cuttino Mobley said. "We just tried to wear him down a little bit,
and we did a better job of that in the second half."

McGrady, coming off a 34-point game at Seattle, finished with 29
against the Clippers after making 10 of his first 14 shots. The
Rockets lost for the second time in eight games since the two-time
NBA scoring champion returned from a sprained back that sidelined
him for eight games -- all losses.

"They did a good job on him, but they committed extra defenders
on him," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Obviously we're
struggling right now with our perimeter shooting, and we didn't
make them pay as much as we'd hoped to for their committing
multiple defenders to McGrady. So we've got to do that a little bit
better."

McGrady admitted he was somewhat tired because of the Rockets'
grueling six-game road trip, which ends Sunday in this same
building against the Lakers.

"I wasn't hurt or anything -- just fatigue," McGrady said. I
just really felt this trip in that second half. I felt a little
sluggish in the first half, but in the second, it really jumped on
me. I just didn't have any energy, any lift in my jumper, or
explosiveness going to the basket. I was running in mud."

Mobley scored 18 points for the Clippers, who were missing No. 2
scorer Corey Maggette for the sixth straight game because of a
sprained left foot. Backup center Chris Wilcox had 11 points and
tied a career high with 13 rebounds, helping end a string of nine
straight losses to the Rockets.

The Clippers' starting backcourt of Cassell and Mobley -- both
drafted by Houston -- combined to shoot 17-for-32. Cassell helped
the Rockets win NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 after they made him
their first-round draft pick in 1993. Mobley spent his first six
seasons with them before he was shipped to Orlando in a trade that
brought McGrady to Houston in June 2004.

"It's a great gift," Wilcox said. "Those two guys come in and
get us motivated, know how to take over the games for us and put
players in the right position. Now that we've got them, so we're
going to take advantage of them and ride them all the way."

The Clippers, who began the day tied with Phoenix for the
Pacific Division lead, ended a three-game skid that included losses
to Detroit and San Antonio -- the teams that met in last season's
NBA finals.

"We've got veterans who know how to get out of those
situations," Mobley said. "Sometimes when you're on a losing
streak, you start feeling sorry for yourself. But, hey, life goes
on and games go on, and there're going to keep playing them while
you're sulking. So you've got to let it go and win the next one."

Clippers center Chris Kaman, 6 inches shorter than 7-foot-6
Houston center Yao Ming, played 15½ scoreless minutes with four
fouls and grabbed only two rebounds before sitting out the final
7:43 of the first half and the entire third quarter. Wilcox took
over in the low post against Yao, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12
rebounds before Kaman returned for the start of the fourth.

Yao finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Brand, who spent the winter perfecting his mid-range jumper,
made three of them during a 2:47 span to give the Clippers an 82-75
lead with 3:13 to play. The Rockets made only two baskets the rest
of the way and fell to 0-12 in games they've scored fewer than 90
points.

Tempers flared with 10:32 left in the third quarter. Cassell
tried to fend off a moving pick by Wesley, then responded with a
gentle shove before Wesley grabbed him by the front of his shirt.
Both players had to be restrained, and each received a technical
foul. About 3½ minutes later, Wesley hit a fadeaway 3-pointer for
his first points of the game.

Game notes
Houston G Derek Anderson, who played for the Clippers in
1999-00, sat out his second straight game with a strained right
calf after missing Thursday's win at Seattle because of a sore
right knee. ... Kaman missed two of the three games against Houston
last season, one because of a sore lower back and another due to a
sprained left ankle.