Brand, Cassell combine for 61 points in Clips' win

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Elton Brand is playing the best basketball of his career and his Los Angeles Clippers teammates are happy to follow his lead.

Brand scored 35 points Wednesday night, leading Los Angeles over the slumping Orlando Magic 106-94.

The seven-year veteran hit 12-of-22 shots from the field, most of them fallaway jumpers. When he did take the ball to the basket, the Magic had to foul to stop him. He hit 11-of-12 free-throw attempts.

"Elton has always played consistently, but now we're winning basketball games and people are finally taking notice," guard Sam Cassell said.

His success helped free up Cassell and Cuttino Mobley, who had 26 and 16 points, respectively. Los Angeles shot 53 percent from the field.

"Elton hasn't just been good lately, he's been good the whole season," Mobley said. "He's the reason I came here. He makes the job easy."

Brand is averaging 27.1 points and shooting 54 percent (61-of-113) over the last six games, during which the Clippers are 5-1. He won Western Conference player of the week honors for the third time last week and has Los Angeles in good position for its
first playoff appearance since 1997.

"Elton is having an MVP-type season," said Magic guard Keyon Dooling, who was a teammate of Brand's earlier in his career. "He's their guy. They went to him and he delivered."

The Magic are having a hard time finding anyone who can deliver during their three-game losing streak, especially during prolonged stretches of the game when their offense falls out of rhythm.

Steve Francis led Orlando with 21 points but was only 5-of-13 from the field. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 15 rebounds, but he missed a dunk on a three-on-none fast break in the second quarter.

The missed dunk bounded out to nearly halfcourt and the Clippers converted it into an easy dunk at their end. It was one of three open dunks the Magic missed on the night.

"That whole play upset me," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "When you're three-on-none and don't score, that's inexcusable."

Added Francis: "It looked like we didn't have a lot of energy out there. We've got to find a way to get some drives where we play good consistently and not just for four or five games and then tanking it for three or four games."

Game notes
The Magic used only seven players. ... The Clippers were 10-5 in January, the most wins in that month in franchise history. ... Howard and teammate Jameer Nelson, both second-year players, were selected to play in the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star weekend. ... Nelson missed his fifth straight game because of a sprained foot. ... Mobley, who came into the game shooting 83.3 percent from the free-throw line, hit only 2-of-5 free throws.


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