Los Angeles Clippers 103, Chicago 89

CHICAGO, March 20 (AP) -- No one needed to ask Elton Brand how important this was. The urgency showed.

Cuttino Mobley scored 25 points, Corey Maggette added 22, and Brand finished with 21, leading the struggling Clippers to a 103-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.

"It was imperative to get this win,'' Brand said.

The Clippers showed some spark after losing seven of their first nine games this month. They began the night ninth in the Western Conference, a game behind Golden State, but they looked like a team that isn't about to go away quietly. With Golden State losing at Utah, the Clippers are .001 behind the Warriors.

Mobley, Brand and Maggette made sure of that.

Mobley went 8-for-16, while Brand haunted his former team early on, hitting his first five shots and scoring the Clippers' first 10 points. He was 9-of-14 from the floor and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Maggette hit 14 of 17 foul shots.

The Bulls took their second straight loss and once again they fell to a team with a losing record. After falling by one at Memphis on Saturday, the Bulls found little comfort at home, where they are 25-9.

Kirk Hinrich hit six of his first seven shots and finished with 29 points. Ben Wallace matched a season-high with 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for Chicago, but the Clippers outscored the Bulls 32-19 in the fourth quarter.

"We had some huge stops in the fourth quarter,'' Mobley said. "The guys were just playing well together in the post and out on top.''

Two free throws by Maggette and a banked jumper by Daniel Ewing (11 points) gave the Clippers an 82-78 lead with 7:13 remaining. And after blocking Hinrich's pull-up jumper from behind, Chris Kaman made it a six-point game with 6:16 left.

With the score 90-85, Ewing hit a 3-pointer that buried the Bulls with 1:16 remaining, and Maggette added two free throws 10 seconds later.

"We've been playing well of late and on this whole trip, but it has not been showing up in victories,'' coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Tonight, we did a good job moving the ball, especially in the second half. I'm really pleased with that, and now we just need to finish up this trip on a positive note.''

With a win Wednesday at Milwaukee, Los Angeles would salvage a six-game split after dropping three of the first four on this trip.

The Clippers handed a tough loss to the Bulls, who are locked in a fight for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It's no stretch to think that could be the difference between a postseason run and an early exit, given their record at the United Center. And a first-round loss would leave a bitter taste given the high expectations they had after a busy offseason in which they signed Wallace, the top free-agent prize.

"You're definitely concerned when you lose two in a row to teams you think you can beat,'' said Chicago's Ben Gordon, who was 2-of-12 and scored 10 points.

Wallace shrugged off the loss, saying it "don't concern me at all.''

Asked to elaborate, he said, "Long season. That's the name of the game. You win some, you lose some. Can't win them all.''

The Bulls are a tough team to figure.

They have wins over Detroit, San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix. But they also have a tendency to fall to teams with losing records. The Clippers are better than Memphis, at least, and are in the playoff hunt.

"It's late now,'' Brand said. "We only have a few games left. We have to turn it around. It's not a question of waiting anymore - we just have to do it.''

Brand, who had 26 points and nine rebounds in a 110-98 win over the Bulls on Jan. 31, started by hitting four shots against P.J. Brown. Wallace took over on Brand, and Brand buried a jumper from the wing.

Hinrich, meanwhile, wasn't missing either and had 14 points in the first quarter.

The Bulls led 38-29 early in the second, but the Clippers scored nine straight late in the half to go ahead 50-44, before Wallace hit a free throw with 1.1 seconds left.

"Our defense could have been a lot better, but we have to do a better job of executing,'' Hinrich said. "We're the type of team that can take teams out of what they want to do.''

Notes: Clippers G Sam Cassell, who missed the first two games of this trip with an abdominal injury, sat out Tuesday with back spasms. ... Kaman picked up a technical midway through the third for arguing a foul call. ... F Quinton Ross scored six points in 18:32 after suffering a mild concussion in Sunday's game at New Jersey. "I asked him how many fingers I had up today, and he got it right,'' Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. Ross caught an elbow in the face by New Jersey's Vince Carter as the Nets guard went up for a shot with 8:35 left in that game.

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