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Clippers hold Hornets to NBA-low 16 points in second half

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Next month will mark six years since Sports
Illustrated mocked the Los Angeles Clippers in a feature story that
labeled them as the worst franchise in sports history, and put
three alleged Clipper fans on the cover with paper bags over their
heads.

This week, the magazine finally got around to praising the
Clippers for their turnaround -- four months into their best season
in 30 years. Now the bags are off, and so are the gloves.

Elton Brand scored 25 points, and the Clippers held New Orleans
to an NBA record-low 16 points in the second half en route to an
89-67 victory Wednesday night. The Hornets made only one field goal
over the final 20 minutes and were outscored 25-0 during one
stretch.

"Looking at the situation coming in, I thought it would be
exactly what we have here now," said Mike Dunleavy, in his third
season as Clippers coach. "I liked the nucleus, and the commitment
that I heard from (management), I felt strongly that this could
happen. I believe that you defend first, and I've been preaching
this from day one."

Desmond Mason scored 20 points for the Hornets, who missed 21
consecutive field goal attempts at one point and finished at 36.5
percent while going 0-for-9 from 3-point range. Once the Clippers
went to their zone, the Hornets' offense fell into the Twilight
Zone.

"I think it was our communication on defense. When we do that,
we're at our best. When we don't communicate, we get our butts
whipped. It's just that simple," Sam Cassell said. "In the first
half, we weren't communicating properly and they were having their
way with us. In the second half, we went to the zone and
communicated better, and the result was a 20-point win."

The Hornets set a franchise record for fewest field goals in a
half and lowest field-goal percentage (5-for-34). The 25-0 run was
the biggest by a Hornets opponent -- and it came exactly 15 years to
the day of the previous mark, a 20-0 run by the SuperSonics at
Seattle.

"It was pretty embarrassing. We played right into their
hands," P.J. Brown said. "We weren't aggressive, as far as
pushing it up on the break and trying to get easy ones, and we
settled for a lot of jump shots. You live and die by that, and we
couldn't get anything to fall. We couldn't get any rhythm
offensively, and nobody could get a bucket. It was just ugly."

The previous NBA record of 19 points in a half was shared by the
Clippers (against the Lakers), the Miami Heat (against Orlando) --
and the Hornets, against the New York Knicks on November 11, 2000.

"Having an all-time record under our belts says a lot about
this team," Brand said. "We pride ourselves on defense and boxing
out. That's what Coach harps on. We watch film on it, trying to
improve on it every game."

Neither team led by more than five points until Brown's
14-footer gave the Hornets a 53-47 margin about a minute into the
third quarter. They extended their lead to as many as 10 on Mason's
layup with 8:03 left in the period, but the Clippers stunned the
visitors with their 25-0 run -- which was capped by Brand's short
jumper with 7:42 remaining.

The Hornets made three of six free throws before ending their
field goal drought on Mason's alley-oop dunk off a feed from rookie
Chris Paul with 5:45 left. Paul finished with 12 assists and nine
points. Dunleavy emptied his bench with 3:08 remaining with an
87-64 cushion, after watching his team outscore New Orleans 38-5 in
a 15:55 stretch.

"I wasn't happy at halftime with them shooting 55 percent, and
I got into the guys pretty good," Dunleavy said. "I didn't even
know what we had done in that regard until I got in here. I was
just oblivious to it. But on the way in, I heard guys saying, `Hey,
coach, we held them to a pair of 8s in the second half,' which was
pretty amazing."

Cassell had 15 points and Cuttino Mobley added 14 for the
Clippers, who have won three straight after losing a season-worst
five in a row. Center Chris Kaman missed his second straight game
with a sprained left ankle, and Quinton Ross sat out his seventh in
a row due to a sore lower back.

Game notes
One of the three games the Hornets will play in New Orleans
when they return to their hurricane-ravaged city will be against
the Clippers, on March 21 in the rubber match of the three-game
season series. ... The players wore their throwback Buffalo Braves
jerseys on Elton Brand bobblehead night, and Brand missed his first
three shots before finishing 11-for-18. ... Two more Hornets
victories will give Byron Scott 200 as an NBA head coach. Scott was
a first-round pick by the San Diego Clippers in June 1983, but
never played for them. His NBA rights were dealt with Swen Nater to
the Lakers for Norm Nixon and Eddie Jordan. Scott ended up winning
three championship rings. ... Paul averaged 17.2 points and 9.5
assists in February, making him the first rookie to average at
least 17 points and nine assists in any month since Damon
Stoudamire did it in March 1996 with Toronto.