Clippers collect season-high 13 blocks; Brand blocks six shots

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Elton Brand and the Los Angeles Clippers made sure that the Portland Trail Blazers had to work for every basket.

Brand scored 22 points and had six of Los Angeles' season-high 13 blocked shots and Corey Maggette also had 22 points to help the Clippers beat the Trail Blazers 96-89 on Monday night.

"We had a lot of guys contest shots," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We had double digits in blocks, and that's a big reason for them shooting 34 percent against us. That's a good night's work."

They were six off the franchise record for blocked shots. Brand, who hadn't rejected more than five shots in any of his previous 65 games this season, matched that total in the first quarter alone.

"We just had to be aggressive, play defense and help each other out," Brand said. "That was our goal tonight. We wanted to set a tone right away. The team was very active and I was very active."

The Clippers, who blocked 10 shots in Saturday's overtime loss to Sacramento, have recorded double digits in that category in consecutive games for the first time since a three-game stretch a month into the 2001-02 season against Minnesota (10), Denver (13) and Indiana (15).

Bobby Simmons had 15 points for the Clippers, who reached the 30-win mark for just the fourth time in the last 12 seasons.

Marko Jaric, limited to just 72 seconds of action over the previous 16 games because of a stress fracture in his right foot and a hip pointer on his right side, had seven points and six assists in 24 minutes.

Shaun Livingston, the fourth overall pick in the draft, played his second game since returning from an injured shoulder -- and just his 15th all season. It's the first time the two of them have played together since Nov. 21.

"When you have two point guards who are 6-7, that's a great thing," Jaric said. "I'm sure if we were both in there and healthy, we would have won at least half of those games that we lost in the last couple of minutes -- and we lost a lot."

Maggette said, "With those two guys in there, it's going to be a good thing for our team. Tonight you saw flashes of the greatness of the young fella, and Marko coming in and holding down the fort for us. That's what coach always wanted -- to have Shaun in the mix opening up the floor and have Marko do his job."

After playing eight of their previous nine games against clubs currently holding down a playoff spot, the Clippers salvaged a 2-2 split of the season series in a matchup of teams heading to the NBA lottery. The only time the franchise ever beat Portland in a season series was 1973-74 (3-1), when they were the Buffalo Braves.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 23 points and 14 rebounds and Darius Miles added 20 points for the injury-ravaged Trail Blazers (23-42), whose fifth straight loss assured them of their first losing season since 1988-89 (39-43) and just the fourth since the franchise won its only NBA title in 1976-77.

The Blazers have dropped 16 of 19 games and are 1-9 since firing Maurice Cheeks as head coach on March 2 and replacing him on an interim basis with director of player personnel Kevin Pritchard.

"Right now we are giving the young guys a chance to see what they can do," Abdur-Rahim said. "We are happy about their progress, and that's the best way to look at it, but it's still very frustrating."

Three members of Portland's opening night lineup -- Abdur-Rahim,
Derek Anderson and scoring leader Zach Randolph -- have missed a combined total of 67 games because of injuries. Anderson didn't dress for the second straight game because of tightness in his
back, and Randolph is out for the season with a bone bruise in his right leg.

Trailing by 13 early in the fourth quarter, Portland got as close as 92-87 on Miles' driving layup with 53.6 seconds to play. But Los Angeles clinched it with four free throws in the final 44.5 seconds.

The Clippers didn't get their first 3-point basket until Simmons connected with 8:10 left in the third quarter, triggering a 16-4 run that increased their lead to 69-56 with 3:23 left in the period.

Game notes
Maggette was 10-for-14 on free throws -- only the second time this season that he has missed more than three. ... Dunleavy's career coaching record was eight games over .500 when he left Portland. In less than two full seasons with the Clippers, it is 25 games under .500 -- 456-481. ... The Clippers are six games out of a playoff spot while their Staples Center co-tenants, the Lakers, are 3 1-2 out. Both teams have missed the postseason in the same year only once since becoming intracity rivals in 1984-85. That was in
1994. ... The Clippers have beaten the Trail Blazers five straight times at home but have lost 25 of their last 26 at Portland. ... Portland has lost 20 of its last 21 road games against Western Conference opponents.