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Clippers match best home mark in 12 years

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Clippers didn't make the playoffs. Again.
But they turned out to be the best they've been at home in 12
years.

Bobby Simmons scored 21 points, Elton Brand added 20 and the
Clippers beat the New Orleans Hornets 94-89 on Saturday night to
finish 27-14 at Staples Center, tying the mark they compiled in
1992-93 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

"It means a lot," rookie Shaun Livingston said. "We're making
a home court that guys can't come into and win."

Especially the Hornets. They fell to 7-34 on the road, worst in
the Western Conference.

"It has been horrible," P.J. Brown said. "It was the same old
story. It came down to the last 4 or 5 minutes and not being able
to close out because of turnovers and things like that."

More importantly for their long-suffering fans, the Clippers
moved 1½ games ahead of the idle Lakers in the Western Conference
standings. They haven't finished ahead of the Lakers in 12 years.
The Clippers have two games remaining; the Lakers three.

"I heard a lot of office bets that a few of my fans made.
They're telling me, `We bet you guys finish better than the Lakers.
I always want them to get paid," Brand said. "Twenty-seven home
wins with a slew of overtime games and close games that we lost
here, that's great for anybody's standards."

J.R. Smith and Dan Dickau scored 17 points each to lead New
Orleans, which lost its seventh in a row. Lee Nailon added 16
points.

Some things haven't changed for the Clippers, though. They blew
all of a 17-point first-half lead by the fourth quarter.

"We got to learn and hopefully we mature," Clippers coach Mike
Dunleavy said. "We aren't doing a good job of being disciplined
enough."

The Hornets tied it at 80 on a 3-pointer by Casey Jacobsen with
8½ minutes remaining. Los Angeles went up by four points before
Bostjan Nachbar tied it at 83 on a three-point play.

This time, the Clippers' rally stuck. They outscored New Orleans
11-6 to end the game and shot 53 percent.

"Let the lead slip away. We were kind of hurting with our
bench, but we got the `W' and that's the most important thing,"
Brand said.

Brand scored and Simmons had three straight points for an 88-83
lead with 2:40 to play.

Dickau hit two free throws to get the Hornets within three. Then
they committed a shot-clock violation and bobbled the ball around
on another possession before fouling Simmons, who hit both for a
90-85 lead with 1:06 left.

Smith fouled Marko Jaric, who made both and stretched the
Clippers' lead to 92-85. Jaric finished with 15 points.

The teams have played three close games so far, with the
Clippers winning at home in double overtime and the Hornets winning
at home on Dickau's last-second 3-pointer.

Game notes
Clippers C Chris Kaman didn't play because of back spasms.
... Hornets F Chris Andersen (sprained right ankle), F George Lynch
(sore right knee) and C Jamaal Magloire (back spasms) also sat out.
... Los Angeles leads the season series 2-1. The teams play their
regular-season finales against each other Wednesday night in New
Orleans. ... The Clippers' best home record since moving to Los
Angeles was 29-12 in 1991-92. ... The Hornets had lost their
previous three road games by 17.7 points. ... The announced crowd
of 19,060 was the Clippers' eighth sellout this season.