Los Angeles wins series 4-1 (Game 1 of 5)

Los Angeles wins series 4-1

Game 1: Saturday, April 22nd
Game 2: Monday, April 24th
Game 3: Thursday, April 27th
Game 4: Saturday, April 29th
Game 5: Monday, May 1st

Nuggets 87

(44-38, 18-23 away)

Clippers 89

(47-35, 27-14 home)

    Coverage: FSPI

    7:30 PM ET, April 22, 2006

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    DEN 26 19 21 2187
    LAC 31 23 22 1389

    Top Performers

    Den: A. Miller 25 Pts, 3 Reb, 6 Ast

    LAC: E. Brand 21 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 4 Blk

    Radmanovic's free throws the difference for LA

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers won their first playoff game since 1997 -- even after blowing a late 10-point lead.

    When it was over, it really didn't matter whether it was the Clippers' lack of playoff experience or the Denver Nuggets getting the job done down the stretch that made the game close.

    The fact is, Los Angeles won.

    "It was pretty, and then it got ugly," Clippers star Elton Brand said. "It was a long time coming, and it was an important win for the organization."

    Brand had 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots in the first postseason game of his career, veteran Sam Cassell added 19 points and seven assists, and the Clippers beat the Nuggets 89-87 Saturday night.

    "They punched us in the mouth tonight, but we overcame our nerves, and we're starting to get it," Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley said.

    Two free throws by Vladimir Radmanovic with 59.8 seconds left snapped an 87-all tie, and Denver's Carmelo Anthony missed three shots after that, including one from the left corner as time expired.

    Anthony, the Nuggets' star, had 25 points and seven rebounds, but shot just 9-of-26 and missed all eight shots he attempted in the fourth quarter.

    Game 2 will be played Monday night at Staples Center before the best-of-seven, first-round series shifts to Denver for the third and fourth games.

    Chris Kaman added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers, who led 87-77 after his three-point play with 4:10 remaining.

    Andre Miller had 25 points and six assists for the Nuggets. Marcus Camby had nine points and 10 rebounds and Kenyon Martin had nine points and eight boards.

    The Clippers have been one of the most unsuccessful franchises in professional sports, qualifying for the playoffs only seven times in their 36-year history. They're making just their fourth postseason appearance since moving to California in 1978.

    But things have changed, and that was never more obvious than Saturday night, when they recorded their first postseason victory since 1993 and just the 14th in franchise history.

    "I was not concerned," Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor said regarding the Nuggets' late rally. "In the past, we would have folded. But I knew that Sam and Mobley would be up to the challenge."

    Brand and six teammates made their postseason debuts. Brand played in 526 regular-season games before appearing in a playoff game -- the seventh-longest such streak in NBA history.

    Teammate Corey Maggette ranks 13th on the list, having played in 444 regular-season games before making his postseason debut.

    After Kaman gave the Clippers their 10-point lead, the Nuggets scored the next 10 points -- the first four on foul shots by Anthony and the final four by Miller following two turnovers -- to tie it at 87 with 1:08 left.

    Radmanovic made his game-winning foul shots a few seconds later.

    "It's a learning experience," Cassell said. "It's never good to blow a 10-point lead. We got on-the-job experience. They outhustled us, they made big-time basketball plays. They scrambled, we didn't.

    "It's not major things that win playoff games, it's small things -- loose balls, deflections."

    Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said his young players, "did great -- just as I expected them to."

    "I thought defensively we did well," he said. "It might have been good for them to be in a situation with the lead and then have a team come back and tie them up, but they still figured out a way to win it."

    The Clippers led by as many as 16 points late in the third quarter. That's when Nuggets got more physical and were able to sustain it, according to coach George Karl.

    "Down 16 and wobbling, they never quit," he said. "I just wish we could have gotten the lead. We've got to get better in the next couple of days. My team played with a lot of heart, a lot of courage. I think you win a lot of games like that in the playoffs."

    Anthony said he didn't have a good look at the game's final shot, and credited the Clippers.

    "It was a battle -- it was going back and forth. They hit us, we hit them, they just hit us more than we hit them," he said. "I feel really good about our chances in this series."

    Game notes

    The Clippers were 47-35 this season -- the second-best record in franchise history behind the 49-33 mark of the 1974-75 team that played in Buffalo. The franchise moved to San Diego in 1978 and to Los Angeles six years later. ... Denver's only turnover of the first half was on basket interference by Martin with 1:27 left in the second period. The Nuggets committed seven in the game to 15 for the Clippers. ... Broadcaster Ralph Lawler has called 2,113 regular-season Clippers games since being hired in 1978, but only 14 in the postseason. "I think it's a great day for the organization," he said. "Now, it's a matter of how far they can go." ... The Nuggets lost in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two years. Before that, they failed to qualify eight straight years, and they haven't won a postseason series since 1994. ... Cassell entered these playoffs having appeared in 103 postseason games. Only five other players on the Clippers' roster had appeared in the playoffs, playing in a total of 96 games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 87 89
    FGM-FGA 35-91 (.385) 30-68 (.441)
    3PM-3PA 1-6 (.167) 6-12 (.500)
    FTM-FTA 16-22 (.727) 23-30 (.767)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 19-42 12-43
    Assists 16 22
    Turnovers 7 15
    Steals 9 3
    Blocks 5 4
    Fast Break Points 10 0
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (1/0) 22 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 3 16

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Andre Miller Miller
    Points: 25
    Reb: 3
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0
    Elton Brand Brand
    Points: 21
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 4