Clippers take advantage of Duncan's foul trouble

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers are no longer pushovers for the elite teams in the NBA, including the San Antonio Spurs.

Elton Brand had 30 points and nine rebounds, Sam Cassell added 15 points and 11 assists, and the Clippers capitalized on Tim Duncan's foul trouble to beat the defending champions 98-85 Tuesday night and snap the Spurs' seven-game winning streak.

"It just shows what our team can do," Corey Maggette said. "When we execute and do what we're supposed to do, it's hard for teams to beat us -- even the world champs. The key to beating their team is slowing down Tony Parker because he's a guy who finds everyone else and gets them open shots."

Los Angeles is a combined 6-8 against the league's six division leaders, and have beaten every one of them at least once -- except for Detroit. The last time the Clippers faced the Spurs, on Dec. 18 at San Antonio, they took them to overtime before losing 95-87.

"There are some solid teams that we've beaten -- and there's some teams that we should have beaten and didn't. It's just frustrating," center Chris Kaman said. "I think we play better against teams like this and we get more geared up for them. I think they bring out the best in us."

Kaman had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers, who had lost eight straight to the Spurs, 28 of the previous 31 meetings and 12 of 14 at home. But that was without guards Cassell and Cuttino Mobley around.

"I think we match up pretty good with this ballclub," Cassell said. "We had a great opportunity to beat them in San Antonio. If we keep playing hard and smart like we did tonight, we'll have a great chance to beat a whole lot of teams."

Cassell dislocated the pinky on his left hand in the final minute of the first half while trying to steal the ball from Manu Ginobili, but he popped it back in place himself and finished the game without any further distress.

"I've seen it done a lot of times, but that's the first time I've ever done that," Cassell said. "Cuttino told me, 'Welcome to the party,' because his finger's always popping out. The only thing you can do is pop it back yourself."

Parker had 20 points for the Spurs, who lost for only the fourth time in their last 24 games overall. Robert Horry returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for intentionally making contact with an official during an altercation with Dallas guard Jerry Stackhouse in last Thursday's 98-89 victory.

Duncan had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 29 minutes. He shot 6-for-14 from the field, one night after getting poked in the right eye by Smush Parker of the Lakers and missing the final 5:45 of San Antonio's 103-96 win. The two-time MVP had only four points against the Clippers when he picked up his third foul with 7:16 left in the half and went to the bench with the
score tied at 26-all.

"We're glad he got in foul trouble," Cassell said. "He's an excellent ballplayer. Just to see him and Elton Brand go at it, trying to figure each other out, that was magnificent."

Duncan was on the floor for the start of the second half, but he was charged with an offensive foul with 5:46 left in the third quarter and was replaced by Horry with the Spurs still clinging to their one-point halftime margin. Mobley hit a go-ahead 3-pointer for the Clippers about a minute later, triggering a 15-4 run that gave them a 69-59 lead entering the fourth.

"They were solid all along. That's what killed us," Duncan said. "Defensively, we tried to make them make some mistakes and get some turnovers, but they moved the ball well. Elton Brand was incredible. It seemed like he didn't miss a shot out there.

It was only the 11th time all season that the Spurs trailed after three quarters. Duncan was back in the game at the start of the fourth, but Los Angeles used an 11-5 spurt that opened up an 80-64 lead with 8:38 to play.

"They did a great job double-teaming me," Duncan said. "I got in foul trouble, my shots weren't going down, and things just weren't working my way. I tried to be as aggressive as I could, but they were defending me very well. I finally got some shots to go down late in the game when it seemed like it didn't matter anymore."

Duncan scored seven points during a 62-second span, and Parker sank two free throws to narrow the gap to 92-83 with 2:04 left. But defensive specialist Quinton Ross drained an 18-footer from the
right baseline and Mobley sank two free throws to clinch it.

Game notes
San Antonio is 273-100 with Parker in the lineup. The only
players since the 1970 season to play at least 300 games and have a
higher winning percentage were Magic Johnson (.740) and Larry Bird
(.736). ... This was the first time the Spurs have faced the
Clippers and Lakers in back-to-back road games since the 1997-98
season, two years before Staples Center opened.