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L.A. snaps eight-game losing streak

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers were grateful to be
back on their homecourt for the first time in more than three
weeks, and it showed.

Elton Brand scored 24 points and helped the Clippers snap an
eight-game losing streak Thursday night with a 92-86 victory over
the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Clippers, returning from a 1-8 road trip that seriously
jeopardized their playoff hopes, never trailed while beating the
Timberwolves for the first time in 10 tries. Corey Maggette added
19 points for Los Angeles and Chris Kaman had 13 points and 10
rebounds.

"It's good to be home -- not just at Staples Center, but in your
own bed," Brand said. "We definitely have more confidence at
home. Tonight we executed defensively and offensively and we hit
shots. That was the difference. We had a lot of those games on the
road, and in retrospect, it's kind of sad because we would have
been in a much better position."

Latrell Sprewell had 17 points for the Timberwolves, but reserve
forward Eddie Griffin sat out the second half after breaking his
finger and Michael Olowokandi limped out of the arena with an
injured right knee.

Kevin Garnett had 14 points and eight rebounds while playing
just 32 minutes because of foul trouble. He played only four
minutes in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul with
8:20 left.

The Timberwolves, who trailed by as many as 16 points in the
first quarter, cut the lead to two with 3:24 left when Troy Hudson
scored six consecutive points to slice the Clippers' lead to 74-72.
But Kaman responded with a pair of layups 24 seconds apart, and
Maggette clinched it with six free throws in the final 36.2
seconds.

"I don't think it was too big of a hole to come out of,"
Hudson said. "But they played well, knocked down shots and played
with a lot of aggressiveness, taking the ball to the hole and going
to the boards. We fought hard and tried to make a run at the end,
but we fell short."

Sam Cassell, who missed the previous five games because of a
strained right hamstring, had five points in 10 minutes for the
Timberwolves.

"I didn't want to play Sam, and I think I played him too much
at one stretch," interim coach Kevin McHale said. "He's going to
have to just ease back in there. He ran out pretty hard on one
breakout, and that thing held up. So that was a pretty good sign."

The Clippers also have injury problems at the point, with
eight-year veteran Rick Brunson and rookie Lionel Chalmers getting
most of the playing time with Marko Jaric, Kerry Kittles and No. 1
draft pick Shawn Livingston out. But they still managed a 45-36
halftime lead while limiting Garnett to just six points and four
rebounds at the break.

Playing for the first time in seven days, the Timberwolves
stumbled badly out of the gate and missed nine of their first 13
shots. The Clippers opened the game with a 24-8 run fueled by eight
points from Brand and ended the first quarter with a 26-16 lead,
ending a stretch of eight consecutive quarters in which they were
outscored.

"Elton was tough to guard one-on-one and we couldn't stop him
on the block," said Wally Szczerbiak, who scored 15 points. "He
made some big shots down the stretch and did a good job after we
made our little run."

The loss dropped the Timberwolves to 27-28, 2½ games behind the
idle Lakers for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff
berth. But they weren't able to make a deal by Thursday's trading
deadline.

McHale, who also is Minnesota's vice president of operations,
has had his attention diverted somewhat over the last 1½ weeks
after taking over as head coach on an interim basis following the
firing of Flip Saunders on Feb. 12.

"It was like always -- a lot of talking and a lot of
listening," McHale said. "We felt if we didn't think we could
improve the team, we wouldn't do it. At the end of the day, for a
myriad of reasons, trades just didn't work out for us or for the
other team. But I'm happy with the guys we have. And if they come
out and give a good honest effort every single night, we'll be
fine."

Game notes
A brawl broke out between fans about a dozen rows above the
court and across from the Minnesota bench during a timeout with
5:27 left in the third quarter, then erupted again after play had
resumed. ... Ralph Lawler, who broadcast his 2,000th Clippers game
on Feb. 6 at Philadelphia, was honored for his milestone during a
halftime ceremony. He received the ball from the 76ers game and a
framed jersey with his name and No. 2,000 on it. ... The Clippers
have never made the playoffs in a season in which they lost more
than six straight. ... The Timberwolves are 2-2 since the coaching
change.