Clippers Top Rockets, End Streaks
L.A. Clippers 89, Houston 81
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 17 (Ticker) -- On a day when he wasn't feeling his best, Elton Brand was able to muster up just enough offense for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Brand battled flu-like symptoms to score nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Clippers posted an 89-81 victory over the surging Houston Rockets.
"I thought it was a big win for us because we stopped the losing streak and a lot of the guys were feeling sick before the game," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. said. "Elton wasn't feeling well, and I tred to rest him as much as I could. He had a big second half for us."
Sam Cassell collected 22 points and eight assists, Chris Wilcox added 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds off the bench and Cuttino Mobley scored 18 points against his former team as the Clippers survived a big first-half performance from Tracy McGrady to beat the Rockets for the first time since December 14, 2002.
An early MVP candidate and the catalyst behind Los Angeles' surprising start, Brand went 3-of-11 from the floor over the first three quarters and appeared sluggish throughout the early phases of the contest.
However, Los Angeles already was without swingman Corey Maggette, who missed his sixth straight game with a left foot injury. With Mobley also ailing with the flu, the Clippers needed Brand's gutsy performance.
"With Corey out and (Mobley) fighting the bug, I knew I had no chance but to come out and play," said Brand, who was unsure whether he would play prior to the game. "You definitely second-guess yourself; I was kind of unsure of myself. It was tough in the first half."
Houston cut the deficit to 76-73 on an 18-footer from Stromile Swift with just over six minutes remaining, but Brand knocked down a trio of short jumpers over the next three minutes to give Los Angeles an 82-75 lead.
Rookie Luther Head drilled a 3-pointer at with 2:45 to go to draw the Rockets within 82-78, but Cassell answered with a 3-pointer on the following possession and Brand hit a jumper a minute later to push the lead to 87-78 with 1:20 left.
"We just buckled down and hit the shots," said Cassell, who is nursing a bruised right hip. "We are a little shorthanded right now."
Playing in just his second game of the season, Clippers guard Shaun Livingston came off the bench and dished out 10 assists. The fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Livingston missed the first 21 contests this season due to a back injury. He added six points and four rebounds in 29 minutes.
"Having Livingston back is great," Dunleavy said. "With the ball in his hands, he can create and get others involved. With him at the point, we can put (Mobley) and Sam on the wings to be shooters."
The reserve duo of Wilcox and Livingston also helped to defend the explosive McGrady in the second half.
"I thought Livingston and Wilcox did a great job off the bench for us, and our guys did a great job on McGrady," Dunleavy said. "Even though he scored all those points, we kept going at him and at the end we kind of wore him down."
"They did a great job in the second half on (McGrady)," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy added. "They put another guy on him and made it tougher for him to score."
McGrady scored 25 of his 29 points in the first half and Yao Ming added 22. But the Rockets shot just 33 percent (13-of-40) in the second half and had their season-high five-game winning streak snapped.
"In the second half they really jumped on me," said McGrady, who went just 2-of-12 after the break. "I didn't have the same rhythm in the second half and I was a little worn down."