Brand Torches Grizzlies for Clippers’ 30th Win
L.A. Clippers 91, Memphis 87
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 10 (Ticker) -- Firmly entrenched on the All-Star team, Elton Brand now is forcing his name into the MVP discussion.
Brand scored a career high-tying 44 points and simply took over down the stretch, singlehandedly lifting the Los Angeles Clippers to a 91-87 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, who continue to struggle in the fourth quarter.
"It is really an honor to go to the All-Star Game," Brand said. "It is an honor for the Clipper organization and for my teammates."
Brand, who is averaging 32.1 points on 59 percent shooting over his last seven games, clearly is the primary reason why the Clippers (30-18) reached the 30-win plateau more than a month earlier than last season.
"We really wanted this win," Brand said. "We didn't want to lose at home after the good (4-1) road trip we are coming off of. In the past, we would have lost close games like this. But this year, we're grinding them out, on the road and at home."
Memphis held a 75-67 lead entering the fourth quarter before Brand took over. He scored 14 points in the period, making 6-of-8 shots to match his best performance since a 44-point output vs. Washington on April 14, 2000.
"I wasn't pleased with the way we started tonight," said Los Angeles' Mike Dunleavy, who coached in his 1,000th career regular-season game. "I don't know if it was a hangover from the road trip, but in the second half, the guys came out and played much harder and did a good job. We had a hot hand with Elton Brand and we just rode it."
Brand opened the final session with back-to-back jumpers and, after the teams exchanged baskets, added a pair of free throws and another jumper to forge a 77-77 tie.
"Brand had a sensational game," Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said. "He had a big night and made baskets when his team needed him to."
Several minutes later, Brand made a short jumper to bring Los Angeles within 82-81 and Chris Kaman dropped in a layup on the next possession, giving the Clippers the lead for the first time since the second quarter.
But this time, Brand would not let them squander it.
"I would say this was one of the best games I've played this year," Brand said. "Offensively, I was really in the zone. And my teammates were looking for me. I really wanted this game badly."
The 26-year-old Brand followed with a driving layup to push the edge to 85-82 and swatted fellow All-Star Pau Gasol's hook shot on the other end to preserve the cushion.
"I thought we played good enough to win," said Memphis forward Shane Battier, who played with Brand at Duke. "But Elton willed them to victory."
"It was pretty much all of his points came off of jump shots," Gasol said. "It is really hard to stop a guy when he's shooting like that. He pretty much had someone with a hand in his face and he scored a lot in the fourth quarter, when his team really needed it."
Memphis did continue to battle, closing within 87-85 on Eddie Jones' 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play. But Dunleavy called a timeout and drew up a play for Brand, who promptly drilled a 10-foot jumper to restore a four-point lead.
"That was incredible," Clippers forward Quinton Ross said. "It seemed like he made every shot tonight. Every time he got the ball, he made a shot."
It is a good thing Brand was so dominant because he did not receive a lot of help. Kaman collected 16 points and 11 rebounds, but the Clippers' backcourt trio of Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley and Shaun Livingston combined for just 16 points on 6-of-24 shooting.
"It was a tough game, but we played defense in the end," said Mobley, who also had five of the team's 15 turnovers. "Chris did his job with 16 and 11, and Elton did his job, plus more."
Mobley went on to further praise the All-Star power forward.
"My hand is hurting me and Sam had a tough night shooting, which made it a little harder than it should have been," he added. "But Elton shot well from the anthem and gave us what we needed."
Dunleavy, whose team has held 10 of its last 12 opponents under 100 points, continued to recognize defense as the key to the Clippers' success.
"I think it is our maturity and we know that our defense is good," said Dunleavy, whose team is 10-2 in that stretch. "We know we can make stops by digging down and making things happen. I thought we took some bad shots, which made it a lot harder than it had to be. But eventually, we got the job done."
Gasol and Battier each scored 16 points and Jones added 15 for the Grizzlies, who shot 4-of-23 in the fourth quarter in losing their fifth straight game.
"It has just been a constant thing," Gasol said. "We play well for 40 minutes and are right there at the end, but we are unable to finish games right now."