Brandís Big Second Half Lifts Clippers
LA. Clippers 102, L.A. Lakers 83
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 24 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant may have the inside track for the MVP award, but Elton Brand's bandwagon is gaining steam.
Brand scored 24 of his 32 points in the second half and Vladimir Radmanovic enjoyed his best game as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, helping them to a 102-83 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We lost five games in a row, but I don't think we were playing badly," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We just came up in the wrong column and we knew we had to have this game."
The Clippers jumped out to a 12-1 lead midway through the first quarter and did not yield a basket until Bryant's jumper with 4:56 to play in the opening period.
"It was one of those games we had to come in and play hard from the beginning of the game and that is what we did," Radmanovic said. "They didn't have a field goal for about the first six minutes of the game. We showed them how we were going to play and it paid off."
Behind 25 first-half points by Bryant, the Lakers gradually chipped away at their deficit, closing within 62-60 on Smush Parker's layup with 6:22 to play in the third quarter. But Brand went an MVP-style tear, scoring nine points during a 16-0 run that gave the Clippers control of the game.
"I would definitely consider Elton Brand for MVP," Mobley said. "He's one of the top five for the MVP. Kobe is a big issue on their team, too, for MVP. We've got a pretty good supporting cast for EB and EB is having an unbelievable year."
Mobley and Brand began the decisive burst with consecutive jumpers before Brand threw down a thunderous dunk between two defenders. After Sam Cassell drained a jumper, Brand converted a three-point play and Walter McCarty and Brand each jammed to bring the Staples Center crowd to its feet.
"It wasn't about the Lakers," Mobley said. "It was a home game and the Los Angeles fans just get into it like that."
Radmanovic capped the pivotal surge with a free throw with 2:40 remaining in the period. The sharpshooting forward, acquired in a trade with Seattle on February 14, made 6-of-9 shots, including 5-of-8 from the arc.
"I'm just glad we won a game," said Radmanovic, who was playing in front of the home fans for the first time since the swap. "I am happy to be here and play with all these guys and have some fun and hope we can do something great."
With just over a minute to play, Brand converted a three-point play to give the Clippers their biggest lead at 100-81. The two-time All-Star, who was serenaded with MVP chants throughout the fourth quarter, exited to a standing ovation with six seconds left.
"It is nice to hear the home crowd supporting me," Brand said. "But right now, we are here to win ballgames."
Cassell and fellow point guard Shaun Livingston combined for 12 points and 16 assists, committing only one turnover between them.
"I talked to our guys before the game that we had to play defense for 48 minutes and rebound," Dunleavy said. "We have been outrebounded our last five games by almost double-digits. But tonight, I thought our guys did a great job defensively all night."
Bryant scored 39 points on 12-of-28 shooting to record his 36th 30-point effort of the campaign. The league's leading scorer did not receive much help, however, as Lamar Odom scored only eight points on 3-of-12 shooting and Kwame Brown missed all five of his shots in 26 minutes.
"We didn't play very well and we couldn't make shots," Bryant said. "We didn't execute and we couldn't match their energy or their effort. They outworked us tonight."
Chris Mihm scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Lakers, who committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the third quarter.
"They got hot in the third quarter," Bryant said. "They made a lot of big plays when they missed, and on defense they were scrapping and hustling."
The victory improved the Clippers to 31-23, giving them a 3 1/2-game lead on the Lakers (28-27) in the Pacific Division.
"It's definitely a rivalry this year," Brand said. "They're in the eighth spot and we're in the fifth spot and we're both vying for the same thing. It was a huge game for our morale and confidence with them behind us. We wanted to keep them one game above .500 and put us eight, to get some separation. It was an important game."