Spurs take one-game lead over Mavericks in West

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs vividly remembered what Elton Brand did against them three weeks ago.

They were not about to let him repeat it.

Duncan had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and he did a lot of the heavy work in containing Brand on the other end of the floor Tuesday night in leading the Spurs to a 98-87 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Elton is having such a great season, he's been an MVP candidate all year long, and we felt we should start there because he hurt us so bad last time," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It worked out for us this time."

Brand led the Clippers with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but he shot only 3-of-11 and scored 11 points after the first period. He had 30 points and nine rebounds March 7 in a 98-85 victory over the Spurs at Staples Center.

"It was a huge key," Duncan said of containing Brand. "He really hurt us last time. We decided to come after him and make them change their game a little bit."

Michael Finley also scored 20 points, Bruce Bowen had 16, Brent Barry scored 11 and Manu Ginobili had eight points and nine assists for the Spurs (55-16), who moved into first place in the Western Conference, one game ahead of Dallas.

The Spurs won for the seventh time in nine games despite the absence of leading scorer Tony Parker, who sat out because of a sore right shin. He was injured Sunday night during a 106-102 loss in Seattle, when he was accidentally kicked.

"It's really sore," Popovich said. "He can't push off or put any weight on it."

Popovich said Parker might be available Thursday night when the Spurs play the Lakers.

"Tony's a really good player, but their offense is so easy to run," Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley said. "You dribble it down, you give it to Tim, and those guys are knocking shots down and making plays. That team is deep enough that it's OK.

"If you miss Tim Duncan, then there's a difference. But you can make up Tony's 20 [points]. And Finley's a starter anywhere else."

Chris Kaman added 18 points and eight rebounds and Corey Maggette had 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Clippers (41-29), who lost for just the fourth time in 12 games and need only one victory to clinch their first winning season in 15 years.

Sam Cassell was held to eight points and seven assists.

"It was a little disappointing," Brand said of the Clippers' performance. "We built some confidence playing against this team. We felt like we should have won up at their place and lost in overtime, then we beat them pretty handily here, and with their full complement -- Tony Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, everybody.

"But they played pretty well tonight. They made shots and we didn't. We didn't take it onto the court, and they got easy layups and easy shots."

The Spurs shot 36-of-73 (49 percent) including 10-of-25 from 3-point range, while the Clippers went 28-of-74 (38 percent) including 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.

"Good win for us against a very good team," Popovich said. "We needed to get back to who we are and what our personality is. I thought we did that tonight."

Popovich referred to the solid defense his team played, something he hasn't seen for the past few weeks.

"We can't win like that," he said. "It's not our deal."

Finley scored four straight points in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to give the Spurs a 76-62 lead, and his 3-pointer with 6:44 remaining made it 90-73. The Clippers didn't threaten after that.

"We weren't shooting the ball well from the outside," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "If you're doing that, the only way you have a chance is if you're very efficient in other areas."

Game notes
With Parker sidelined for the first time, Bowen became the only San Antonio player to play in each of his team's 71 games this season. ... Beno Udrih made his second start of the season and the fourth of his career in Parker's place. He had four points in 13 minutes. ... The injury-plagued Clippers had everyone available for the first time this season. Mobley returned after sitting out two games because of a sprained right ankle and went scoreless, missing all six shots he tried. Zeljko Rebraca came back after missing 12 games because of a strained left hamstring and had three points and three rebounds. ... The Spurs have won 29 of the last 33 games between the teams. ... Bowen was fined $10,000 by the NBA for
kicking Seattle's Ray Allen in the back Sunday night. ... Kaman picked up a technical foul in the second quarter, and Cassell got one in the third period.