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Saturday, March 18, 2006 

CLIPS 86 THE 76ers

The Clips took advantage of Allen Iverson's absence from Staples Center last night, building a lead as large as 22 before settling for a 99-89 St. Patrick's Day defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers. The team's 38th victory of the season eclipses last year's total of 37 with 18 games remaining (about which more later). They now set off on a three-game road trip with a fourth opportunity to rise thirteen games over .500 after failing in three previous attempts.

The Clips jumped out to a six-point lead after one quarter thanks to nine Q1 points from Philly native Cuttino Mobley. Cat rediscovered his shooting touch last night, stroking 8-12 for 20 points. Elton Brand led all scorers with 24 on 11-18 shooting, adding ten rebounds for his 36th double-double. Chris Kaman corralled 12 rebounds but finished a bucket shy of a double-double, missing lay-ups, tip-ins and two-footers with Olowokandiesque frequency. Throw it down, big man!

How great is it to have legitimate NBA starters such as Corey Maggette and Vladimir Radmanovic on the bench? As Matt Pinto noted in the postgame, the Clips have enough scorers that they can afford to start Quinton Ross to prevent the opponent's best player from going off early. Then you bring in a Maggs (11 points in 25 mintues) and a Vladi (15 in 27) and you blow the other team's second unit out of the water (36-15). As Captain Obvious would say, "It's so obvious!"

Shaun Livingston was a game-time decision after rolling an ankle in Phoenix but played and played well, allowing Sam Cassell to rest after recording nine points and six assists in 24 minutes. Shaun also had six assists but was charged with five turnovers; several of those, however, came on beautiful passes that Brand and Kaman failed to anticipate. Coach Dunleavy screamed himself hoarse, but not at The Kid. Boniface N'Dong made the most of his surprise entry, accumulating three points, five rebounds, a block and a steal in eight quality Q2 minutes.

Chris Webber led the Sixers with 19 points, but had just two after halftime. Birthday boy and Ashton Kutcher look-alike Kyle Korver scored 17 (including 4-7 3FGs), matching the game's Clipper All-Star, Steven Hunter, whose 8-10 shooting included several poster dunks against the matador defense of Kaman. Andre Iguodala -- the other AI --scored 11 and John Salmons 10 as all five starters finished in double figures.

Now, a look at the Clips' remaining schedule:
-- Five games against higher WC playoff seeds (vs. SAN, vs. DEN, @ PHX, vs. DAL, @ DAL)
-- Five games against lower WC playoff seeds (@ MEM, @ SAC, vs. SAC, @ LAL, @ MEM)
-- Three games against WC playoff contenders (@ HOU, @ NOK, vs. UTA)
-- Four games against WC playoff also-rans (@ POR, vs. POR, @ SEA, vs. SEA)
-- One game against EC (vs. WAS) -- the Wizards currently hold the sixth seed in the East

The 18 games include five back-to-backs. The opponents have a weighted average record of .533 (34.72-30.44). The Clips have a weighted combined record of 18-19 against them. It's not an easy stretch of games to try to gain momentum for the postseason, but if this challenge daunts the Clips, the playoffs will make mincemeat out of them.

Click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion! -- Jordan

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