Cassell, Brand Rally Clippers Past Nuggets
L.A. Clippers 111, Denver 109
LOS ANGELES, April 4 (Ticker) -- Sam Cassell and Elton Brand led a comeback that has the Los Angeles Clippers poised for their first playoff berth in nine years.
Cassell scored 12 of his 19 points in the second-half and Brand added 11 of his 18 after the break as the Clippers erased a 20-point halftime deficit to edge the Denver Nuggets, 111-109.
"We made a statement," Cassell said. "They just played harder in the first half, but we showed that a win at this point takes more than just playing. We got seven consecutive stops and scored five times and I knew we were going to win."
"We had to come back," Brand said. "We dug ourselves in a deep hole. I am just happy and proud that we showed the resolve, the intensity and the heart to come back. We didn't give it up, especially with all the playoff implications this game had."
Denver (41-34), which saw its magic number to clinch the Northwest Division fall to three because of Utah's loss, jumped to a 77-57 lead at the half thanks to Carmelo Anthony, who scored 20 of his 24 points in the first two periods. However, the Clippers roared back to take a 110-107 lead with 71 seconds remaining.
"Coach (Mike Dunleavy) really layed into us at halftime, but he didn't have to because we were disappointed in ourselves," Brand said. "He didn't have to because we were disappointed with our defense and the way we were playing."
The frustration got to Anthony, as he punched the ball into the stands when he thought he did not get a foul call.
"I thought Carmelo just lost his cool," said Denver center Marcus Camby, who scored 18 of his 19 points in the first half. "That happens sometimes. It will be how he responds, and I think he's going to respond a whole lot better."
Anthony was ejected, costing the Nuggets their best player. It came back to haunt them in the waning seconds as Denver had a chance to tie, but it was forced into a desperation leaner by Ruben Patterson that was way off the mark as time expired.
"I think the rule is now, with anything thrown into the crowd, is an automatic ejection," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "So I am pretty sure that he did warrant the ejection from the interpretation in the rules. It was a tough play because it's a (close) game."