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Brand explodes in second half to lift Clippers over Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Just when it seemed the Lakers and Clippers
were returning to their traditional roles, the Clippers showed who the team of the moment is in Los Angeles.

Elton Brand scored 24 of his 32 points in the second half and
had 11 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers stopped a season-high
five-game losing streak with a 102-83 win over the Lakers on Friday
night.

"We lost five games in a row but I don't think we were playing
badly," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Our guys knew we had
to have this game tonight."

Cuttino Mobley scored 22 points and Vladimir Radmanovic had 19,
including five 3-pointers, for the Clippers, who have taken two of
three from their crosstown rivals as they seek to make the playoffs
for the first time in nine seasons.

"It was a huge game for morale," Brand said.

Kobe Bryant scored 39 points, but 25 were in the first half and
he had just one point in the decisive third quarter.

Chris Mihm was the only other Laker in double figures with 11
points.

Brand took control of the game with 16 points in the third
quarter.

After Smush Parker's 3-pointer gave the Lakers their only lead
of the game at 51-50 with 9:45 to play in the quarter, the Clippers
went on a 27-9 run that featured 10 points from Brand.

Brand dunked over a pair of defenders, had a three-point-play a
minute later, and had another dunk to put the Clippers up 77-60
with 2:59 to go in the quarter.

"He's a hard-hat guy," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of
Brand. "He's extended his range on his jumper, which has helped
his game tremendously."

Radmanovic made a 3 in the final minute of the period to give
the Clippers their biggest lead 81-62.

"We didn't match their energy and their effort," Bryant said.
"They outworked us tonight. They got hot and they made a lot of
big plays. They hustled when they missed, and on defense they were
scrapping and hustling."

Bryant's 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter pulled them
within 12, but they would get no closer. Bryant scored 13 in the
period.

Both teams are in position to make the playoffs, with the
Clippers in fifth place in the West and the Lakers in eighth. That
brought more urgency than any burgeoning rivalry.

"It's no longer a city thing," Brand said. "It's a
playoff-seeding thing. No more statement games. No more learning
from losses."

Mobley concurred: "It wasn't about the Lakers. We lost five
games. We needed it. It could have been the Lakers, or Memphis or
whatever."

The Lakers had shown some much-needed balance as they won two
games earlier in the week coming out of the All-Star break.

But Bryant had virtually no help Friday night.

Lamar Odom, who had scored 20 and 19 points in his last two
games and seemed to be showing up as the second-option the Lakers
had hoped for, had just eight points Friday night against his
former team.

"We wanted to get somebody else in this ballgame to score in
this ballgame," Jackson said. "We kind of encouraged Lamar at
halftime to get a rhythm out there and get his offense going."

The Lakers failed to make a field goal in the first seven
minutes of the game and the Clippers raced to a 12-1 lead that
featured 3-pointers by Mobley and Radmanovic.

"We missed shots," Bryant said. "We just came out and didn't
execute at all. I mean, we just got caught up in the hype of the
game."

Brian Cook fouled Sam Cassell hard earlier in the second
quarter, and Bryant and Mobley jawed with each other in the ensuing
scuffle. Both were called for technicals.

Game notes
Clippers C Chris Kaman sprained his left ankle early in the
first quarter and did not return. He is expected to miss two games
... Kwame Brown was back in the Lakers' starting lineup after
coming off the bench Thursday night against Sacramento. He played
24 minutes and did not score ... The Lakers' passing on last-minute
trades before Thursday's deadline means they will not pay the
luxury tax this season. They are about $3 million under the
threshold of $61.7 million. Coach Phil Jackson said some frayed
nerves disappeared for the Lakers after the trading deadline
passed. "It's something I wasn't totally conscious of, how much it
can affect some of the guys," he said. "But now our team can
relax and be a team." ... Vin Baker, who signed with the Clippers
on Monday, has yet to play and has been inactive for the last three
games.