9:30 PM ET, December 31, 2009
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers gave absentee coach Mike Dunleavy the perfect remedy for his balky backache.
With assistant coach Tony Brown orchestrating the show, the Clippers used a strong fourth quarter to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 104-88 on Thursday night in the NBA's final game of the decade. Chris Kaman had 26 points and 10 rebounds, as all the Clippers' starters scored in double figures.
Dunleavy, who aggravated a herniated disc in his back while getting ready to go to Staples Center, remained home and watched on TV as his team shot 55 percent from the field and 10 for 16 from 3-point range.
"He was in a lot of pain, and he's been fighting a flu bug," said Brown, who had only about 5 hours notice. "He mentioned that he was having some trouble that caused him to get some treatment for his back, and his sneezing really escalated the back issues. But I talked to Mike again before I came in here, and he was quite happy with the win."
This was the third time Brown has been placed in this emergency role during his 11 seasons as an NBA assistant coach, and the third time he's won. It also happened with the Boston Celtics, when Doc Rivers had to leave the team suddenly because of a death in the family, and again with Milwaukee when Larry Krystowiak's wife went into labor with twins.
"Everything we ran tonight was stuff that we've been running," Brown said. "It was short notice, and I wasn't going to go through an old playbook of mine and confuse the guys. So I didn't use any of Doc's stuff. I didn't expect to be coaching tonight, but it feels good to get a win. We really needed it."
Baron Davis had 20 points and seven assists for the Clippers and Marcus Camby contributed 14 points and 10 boards. Los Angeles completed a season sweep of the 76ers after losing both meetings in each of the previous two seasons.
Lou Williams led Philadelphia with 19 points and Elton Brand had 17 in his first road game against the Clippers since he left town as a free agent. The 76ers, coming off victories over Portland and Sacramento, still haven't won three in a row this season.
"We just had a lapse, a mental lapse," Brand said. "We didn't get rebounds and we didn't have the toughness that we had the last two games. We had the lead, but we couldn't keep it. In the third quarter, we started out of synch. They got easy bucket after easy bucket, and we were behind the 8-ball."
Los Angeles fell behind by as many as 13 points after Brand intercepted a pass by Sebastian Telfair and converted the turnover into a breakaway dunk with 2:46 left in the first quarter to cap a 19-4 run. But the Clippers sliced the margin to 51-49 by halftime, as Kaman led all scorers with 16 points despite missing nine of 15 shots.
Los Angeles pulled ahead for good at 55-52 on a 3-pointer by Rasual Butler with 9 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter and extended the margin to 78-63 on another 3 by Camby with 6.6 seconds left in the period.
"The intensity was way up, which is something that we hadn't had in a while," Brown said. "Our third quarters have been normally been slow-starting for us and giving teams a chance to stretch leads. But I think we did a really good job defensively on their perimeter guys, making them take tough contested shots.
"Then we got some timely shots by Rasual Butler, and Baron just carried us down the stretch with his timely shots and playmaking skills."
Brand, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Sixers in July 2008 after he opted out of his Clippers contract, came off the bench for the ninth straight game. When he reported in with 3:18 left in the first quarter and Philadelphia leading 25-16, he was booed lustily by the crowd of 15,257.
"It was definitely strange, playing on the other side here. It was kind of surreal," Brand said. "I mean, there were a few plays where they did something good, and I wanted to give Kaman a high-five. But it's been a long time since I left, so it was a lot easier."
Brand holds the Clippers franchise record with 4,710 rebounds. After he left, Dunleavy accused Brand of backing out of a verbal agreement to return to the Clippers and never giving an explanation. Davis signed with Los Angeles as a free agent prior to that, with the understanding that he would play with Brand.
The 76ers are 4-5 since Brand lost his starting power forward spot. ... Brand entered this season as one of four active players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The others are Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal. ... The 76ers played on New Year's Eve for the eighth straight year. They are 3-5, including a 100-92 win over the Clippers at Staples Center last season, and an 83-75 overtime win against them in 2002. Philadelphia's overall record on Jan. 31 is 7-8. ... The Clippers also have played eight straight times on New Year's Eve (4-4), after having never done so before 2002. All eight games have been at home. ... Philadelphia finished the first decade of the 21st Century with a 418-402 regular season record, besides their one appearance in the finals against the Lakers in '01. ... The Clippers finished the decade 311-512, making the playoffs only once and coming within one victory of advancing to the Western Conference finals in 2006. Brand averaged 24.7 points and 10.0 rebounds for them that season.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||32-85 (.376)||41-75 (.547)|
|3PM-3PA||4-16 (.250)||10-16 (.625)|
|FTM-FTA||20-22 (.909)||12-19 (.632)|
|Fast Break Points||22||8|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||18 (1/0)|