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Brand, Cassell lead Clippers past Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers are aware they need
to improve significantly in the next week or so if they're to have
any shot of being successful in the playoffs.

Playing the way they did Wednesday night won't get it done.

Elton Brand scored 25 points, Sam Cassell added 19 points and 10
assists, and the Clippers struggled to a 97-93 victory over the
short-handed Portland Trail Blazers to snap a three-game losing
streak.

"Everyone on this team has to take a look in the mirror and be
accountable for what they do," Cassell said. "They dictated the
whole game -- probably 45 minutes. Down the stretch, we made some
plays. It's a win in our column, we had lost three in a row. We'll
take it."

At 21-57, the Blazers have the worst record in the NBA. They've
lost four in a row, 14 straight road games and 15 of 16 overall,
but they extended the Clippers to the final seconds.

"The good news is we got a win," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy
said. "I was a little disappointed with the way we played,
especially at the defensive end. We made a couple of their guys
look like All-World tonight."

By winning, the Clippers (45-33) remained a half-game behind
Memphis in the Western Conference and equaled their highest win
total since the 1975-76 season, when they went 46-36 while playing
in Buffalo. They've already clinched their first playoff berth in
nine years.

The Clippers moved to San Diego in 1978 and to Los Angeles in
1984. Their 45-37 record in the 1991-92 season was their best
record since the move to California.

"It's good to be a part of that," Brand said. "We still have
time to jell, to collect ourselves.

"That team is playing pretty loose. They came in and hit some
shots and hung with us."

Chris Kaman added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Cuttino Mobley
scored 13 for the Clippers. Cassell, recovered from a bout with the
flu that limited him to seven scoreless minutes in a 75-73 loss to
Dallas on Monday night, also had six rebounds while playing nearly
38 minutes.

Rookie Jarrett Jack had 20 points to equal his career high along
with seven assists for the Blazers. Viktor Khryapa added 14 points
and Theo Ratliff and rookie Martell Webster scored 11 apiece.

The Blazers played without Zach Randolph and Darius Miles, their
top two scorers, as well as Joel Przybilla, who often starts at
center.

Miles was in uniform during the first half, but changed into
street clothes at halftime. Blazers coach Nate McMillan made clear
his displeasure afterward.

Regarding the game, McMillan said: "I think our young guys did
all they could. We fought, we scrapped, I thought we played the 48
minutes together on both ends of the court. I thought we were a
rebound away from possibly winning."

Baskets by Shaun Livingston and Kaman put the Clippers ahead
81-74 with 7:21 remaining, matching the largest lead of the game
for either team.

The Blazers battled back, and a layup by Jack with 13 seconds to
play made it 93-91. Kaman made two free throws a little over a
second later, but Jack scored again with 7.5 seconds left to make
it a two-point game again. Two free throws by Mobley with 6.9
seconds to go completed the scoring.

Neither team led by more than five points in the third quarter,
which ended with the Clippers on top 71-70.

Game notes
Clippers F Corey Maggette missed his fourth game because of
back spasms. Maggette said in a TV interview he has a herniated
disc and team spokesman Joe Safety confirmed that, but added he has
no idea how long Maggette will be sidelined. Maggette is averaging
17.8 points in 31 games. ... Randolph, averaging 18.0 points and
8.0 rebounds, Miles, averaging 14.1 points, and Przybilla,
averaging 6.1 points and 7.0 rebounds, all sat out because of
problems with their right knees. ... The Clippers swept the season
series with the Blazers for the first time ever, winning twice in
Portland and once in Los Angeles. Portland entered the season
having won 152 of the 204 games between the teams including 26 of
the last 35. ... The Clippers play three of their remaining four
games on the road. Memphis (46-33) plays two of its last three on
the road.