Martin pours in 26 as Kings overcome last-place Clips

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Even in a meaningless April game between two losing teams before thousands of empty seats, Kevin Martin and Elton Brand were hard at work on their futures.

Martin hit four 3-pointers while scoring 26 points, and the Kings avoided a four-game sweep by the last-place Los Angeles Clippers with a 110-98 victory Thursday night.

While Sacramento coach Reggie Theus praised Martin for taking another small step toward becoming a complete scorer, Brand took another big step forward in his comeback from surgery on his Achilles' tendon. The Clippers power forward had 15 points and nine rebounds in his second game back from a 74-game absence, but he couldn't stop Sacramento's easy run to its fourth victory in five games.

Theus praised Martin for learning to get "the easy points" -- a skill Theus knows well from his own days as a high-scoring guard.

"He's starting to adapt to the game now," Theus said. "I'm seeing things from him that I didn't see before. He's scoring easier in our offense now."

Francisco Garcia scored 17 points and Mikki Moore added 16 for the Kings, who took a 20-point lead in the third quarter. Sacramento already had lost three times this season to the Clippers, who have lost 12 of 14.

After hitting two 3-pointers in the final 23 seconds before halftime, Martin scored nine points in the third quarter as the Kings pulled away. Though well out of the playoff race, Sacramento (35-40) already has surpassed its 33-win total from last season, when its streak of eight consecutive postseason appearances ended with a thud.

"It was in the back of our minds, how we had lost to them four times, including the preseason," Martin said. "It was about time for us to get a win against them."

Corey Maggette scored 28 points while injured veterans Chris Kaman, Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas sat out their second straight game for the Clippers, who still beat the SuperSonics on Wednesday night in Brand's season debut. Josh Powell matched his career high with 13 rebounds while playing center in Kaman's place.

Brand, the two-time All-Star whose injury crippled the Clippers' season before it began, played 27 minutes off the bench. Ron Artest's former AAU teammate seemed to be the hardest-working player on the court in several stretches, fitting with his stated goal of making an impact on his losing team before the season ends in two weeks.

"I felt like I did all right, but there were a few little things I could have done better to help the team," Brand said. "It's just timing issues and getting the [plays] down. I'm just glad the coach gave me the opportunity to get on the court to get better."

Clippers rookie Nick Fazekas, who played college ball two hours away at Nevada, scored a career-best 18 points. Fazekas was drafted and waived by Dallas before catching on with Los Angeles in late February.

"Nick has done a nice job for us," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Every game he comes in, it seems like he's getting better and better, and he makes his own breaks and gets in the right spots."

Arco Arena was several thousand fans short of capacity, with a remarkable number of empty seats for a club whose streak of 354 consecutive sellouts ended in the regular season opener.

Game notes
Mobley sat out with a sore left heel, and Kaman was absent because of a sprained right ankle. Thomas also didn't dress for the second straight night with a leg injury. ... Sacramento deactivated G Beno Udrih because of a sore back, but rookie C Spencer Hawes played on a sprained left ankle after missing two games. Hawes had 11 points. ... Clippers rookie Al Thornton had a night to forget, scoring eight points on 3-of-14 shooting before fouling out. ... Theus found a clever way to agree with Moore's protestations about a blocking foul against him in the third quarter. "That's the first time Mikki has been right all year," Theus said to referee Eddie F. Rush.


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