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West's best: Clippers tied with Spurs for conference lead

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers are enjoying life in
the NBA's high-rent district, and they expect to stay there for a
while.

Elton Brand had 32 points and 10 rebounds, Corey Maggette scored
24 points and the Clippers beat Golden State 113-101 on Sunday to
open up a 2½-game lead on the Warriors in the Pacific Division.

The Clippers improved to 8-2, the best start in the franchise's
36-year history, and pulled back into a tie with defending champion
San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference.

"I know it's hard for teams to have chemistry so early, but I
think our chemistry level has been good," Maggette said.

Cuttino Mobley had 22 points for Los Angeles and Sam Cassell
added 14 points and 10 assists. The 8-2 start is the best 10-game
stretch for the Clippers at any point of a season since 1978-79,
when they were based in San Diego.

"They put these guys all together for one goal, and that was to
win ballgames," Brand said. "We've got guys who are proven
winners -- tested winners. Sam and Cuttino are helping a lot. We're
just a cohesive unit right now. It's a lot of fun. Fighting San
Antonio for the best record in the West, it can't be any more
exciting than that."

It also is the first time the Clippers have started 4-0 at home
since 1991-92. A victory Wednesday night against Toronto would
equal the best home start in franchise history, set in 1983-84.

"I told the guys in training camp, `We're a good team,"
Mobley said. "We've got a nice bench and we've got a nice starting
combo when we're all on the court -- Sam, myself, Corey, Elton,
Chris (Kaman) -- that's a nice squad right there. If we just keep
playing together like we've been doing, we'll be fine."

Baron Davis had 21 points and 13 assists for the Warriors, who
have lost five straight to the Clippers -- including a four-game
sweep last season in which they were held to an average of 87
points. Jason Richardson scored 20 points -- including a breakaway
360-degree dunk that hardly put a dent in a 17-point lead the
Clippers built in the third quarter.

"It was our defense that lost the game," Richardson said. "We
gave up too many easy baskets, too many free throws and position in
the post."

Brand, Maggette and Mobley all reached the 20-point mark before
the third quarter ended. Mobley's 3-pointer capped an 18-4 run that
made it 85-68 with 3:56 left in the period.

"We were not as sharp as we usually are," Davis said. "They
have very good one-on-one players, and down the stretch we couldn't
hit our open 3-point shots."

The Warriors opened the fourth with a 13-4 spurt that closed it
to 98-92 with 7:41 to play. The Clippers made only one of seven
shots in the quarter to that point -- a 3-pointer by rookie Daniel
Ewing -- but Cassell and Mobley each hit a pair of free throws to
restore the double-digit lead, and Cassell added a fadeaway
baseline jumper for a 104-92 cushion with 4:49 left.

The Warriors got no closer than 12 points after that.

"It's good that our team is holding those leads, because last
year we lost games like this," Maggette said. "It's like Sam said
when he came here, we're not going to lose the games that we used
to lose in the fourth quarter.

"They made a real run on us at the end, and at that time we
needed to bring Sam back in and we got it going. We got into our
offensive sets a lot better because he puts a lot of pressure on
the defense. Then Elton went to the line a few times, got some big
blocks and some big rebounds."

Coming off an emotional 97-91 victory over their Staples Center
co-tenants, the Lakers, the Clippers used 18 points from Brand and
14 from Maggette to take a 61-57 halftime lead. Golden State led by
as many as eight before the Clippers pulled ahead for good on a
layup by Zeljko Rebraca that gave them a 48-46 lead with 4½ minutes
left in the second quarter. Rebraca had 17 points and a career-high
16 rebounds in the previous meeting last Jan. 19.

Davis recorded nine assists during a 5:14 span of the first
quarter, engineering a 20-9 run that gave Golden State a six-point
lead. The two-time All-Star also managed to squeeze in 10 points
during the period.

Game notes
The Clippers have beaten the Warriors at least once in each
of the last 19 seasons, their longest such streak against any team.
... Golden State F Mike Dunleavy Jr. is 2-7 in games his father has
coached against him. ... The Warriors will play eight of their next
nine games at home. ... Howard Eisley made his Clippers debut,
playing nine scoreless minutes with two assists. The 32-year-old
guard, playing for his seventh team in 12 NBA seasons, signed as a
free agent Thursday.