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Archive for Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Clippers taking control of series

April 25, 2006

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— Suddenly, the Los Angeles Clippers seem to have all the playoff experience they need.

Cuttino Mobley scored 21, Elton Brand had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and the Clippers took command early in beating the Denver Nuggets, 98-87, Monday night for a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs.

The best-of-seven series moves Thursday night to Denver for Game 3 and Game 4 Saturday night.

The Clippers, in the postseason for the first time in nine years, blew a 10-point lead in the last four minutes before winning the opener, 89-87. With seven of their 12 active players making their postseason debuts, there was a case for playoff jitters down the stretch.

There were no such problems in Game 2.

Teams taking 2-0 leads in the NBA playoffs have won 176 times in 186 opportunities - 94.6 percent. So at least on paper, things look bad for the Nuggets, in jeopardy of being eliminated in the first round for a third straight year.

The Clippers shot 47.5 percent to Denver's 34 percent. Los Angeles is 28-1 when holding the opposition under 40 percent this season.

Sam Cassell had 13 points and 11 assists, Corey Maggette scored 12, and Chris Kaman and Quinton Ross each added 10 for the Clippers.

Marcus Camby led the Nuggets with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony, who played less than 6 1/2 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, scored all of his 16 points in the second half. Greg Buckner, Andre Miller and Earl Boykins added 14 points apiece for Denver.

Los Angeles Clippers Sam Cassell, right, celebrates with teammate Cuttino Mobley after successful defense against the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter of their first round Western Conference playoff basketball game, Monday, April 24, 2006, in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Clippers Sam Cassell, right, celebrates with teammate Cuttino Mobley after successful defense against the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter of their first round Western Conference playoff basketball game, Monday, April 24, 2006, in Los Angeles.

The Clippers got off to a great start, shooting 13-of-20 and committing one turnover in taking a 32-13 first-quarter lead. The Nuggets shot 6-of-24, including 0-of-6 from three-point range, and were outrebounded 15-10.

The onslaught continued in the second period, with the Clippers scoring the first six points for a 25-point lead. It was 56-34 at halftime thanks to Mobley's three-pointer from about 35 feet away just before time expired.

The Nuggets weren't closer than 11 points after that.

Anthony scored his first nine points to spark a 16-6 Denver run to open the third quarter, cutting the Clippers' lead to 62-50.

But the Clippers responded with a 10-2 spurt capped by Shaun Livingston's flying dunk and free throw, making it 72-52.

It was 75-59 entering the fourth quarter, and the Clippers scored the first seven points of the final period for a 23-point lead.

Anthony picked up two fouls in the opening 4:52 of play, and a third 90 seconds into the second quarter. He missed all four shots he tried in the first half.

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