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Kings beat Clippers, keep two-game lead for eighth in West

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Six head coaches have failed to coax
even one victory out of the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento over
the last nine seasons.

And Mike Dunleavy's own streak of futility is three years old
and counting after the Clippers' 106-96 loss to the Kings on Sunday
night.

Not even the coach who finally turned these perennial losers
into playoff contenders can solve the mystery of Arco Arena, where
the Clippers have lost 16 straight games. But Dunleavy, who hasn't
even beaten the Kings in Los Angeles since taking over in 2003,
hopes the latest loss is a lesson in the importance of preparation.

"Our guys were not prepared to come out and play," Dunleavy
said. "We had 22 turnovers and gave up seven offensive boards.
That tells me that I'm wasting my breath. Sacramento didn't pull
any trick plays. We just let them take the game to us."

The Kings don't have time for such lessons: They're still in a
fierce fight for the conference's last playoff berth. With another
smooth effort against a playoff-bound opponent, the Kings
maintained their eighth-place standing in the West, two games ahead
of New Orleans and 1½ behind the seventh-place Lakers.

Ron Artest scored 26 points, Brad Miller had 25 points and nine
rebounds and the Kings beat the Clippers for the 12th straight time
overall. Mike Bibby had 22 points and seven assists for the Kings,
who trailed for just one possession.

Sacramento has no more explanation for its dominance in this
matchup than the Clippers do.

"I don't think it matters. Of those 16 wins, this team hasn't
been involved in 15 of them," said Kings coach Rick Adelman,
referring to his team's wholesale personnel changes in the last
year. "It's only been one."

Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 18 points in a reserve role for the
Kings, who won their third straight after dropping consecutive home
games last week to snap a 14-game winning streak at Arco. The Kings
were back in top form for their only home game in a six-game
stretch, leading by at least five points throughout the fourth
quarter.

"I think we just match up well against this team," said Bonzi
Wells, who had seven points, seven assists and six rebounds. "We
were just lucky enough we hit our shots and exploited the
mismatches."

Sam Cassell and Chris Kaman scored 20 points apiece for the
Clippers, who clinched the sixth winning season in franchise
history with a victory over Utah on Friday night.

Los Angeles is in fifth place in the Western Conference, but
can't get any higher -- and the Clips have only inner motivation to
finish strong in their final 10 games, since falling to sixth might
be much better for their chances of going far in the playoffs.

The West's fifth-place team probably will play powerful Dallas
or San Antonio in the first round -- but the sixth-place finishers
probably will get a matchup with the Denver Nuggets, whose 41-33
record isn't even as good as the Clippers' 42-30 mark. Memphis is
in sixth, just one game behind the Clippers.

Of course, that's not how the Clippers are thinking.

"We need to have a different focus," said Corey Maggette, who
had 16 points and five turnovers. "If we settle for just making
the playoffs, we're going to get beat in the first round."

Elton Brand had 16 points on 5-for-14 shooting and 13 rebounds
for the Clippers, who haven't won at Arco Arena since Nov. 7, 1997.

Sacramento scored the game's first nine points and led by 14
early on, but Los Angeles came back with a 10-2 surge and took its
first lead on Cuttino Mobley's 3-pointer midway through the third
quarter. Artest scored the next eight points on two free throws and
two 3-pointers, and the Kings stayed comfortably ahead for the rest
of the night.

Artest and Bibby hit four 3-pointers apiece.

Game notes
Kaman set his career high with 25 points in the Clippers'
last visit to Sacramento. ... The California rivals meet again at
Staples Center on Friday night. ... Kings G Kevin Martin returned
after missing five games with a bruised thigh. He had six points
and three rebounds. ... Sacramento has the NBA's toughest schedule
over its final eight games, starting with back-to-back visits to
Dallas and San Antonio this week.