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Brand Believes His Formula

Times Staff Writer

Power forward Elton Brand made his first eight shots in Sunday’s victory over the Houston Rockets and had 17 points and six rebounds in the first half. The Clippers held a 10-point lead, and all was well at Staples Center.

The Clippers lost the lead, but rallied late to win, 90-89.

“We need to get the lead and keep going with what got us the lead,” Brand said.

The Clippers haven’t followed that game plan often enough, which explains why they squandered leads of 17, 16 and 15 points during an eight-day stretch that threatened to derail their prospects for a successful season.

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The Rockets wiped out a 17-point Clipper lead before faltering at the end Sunday. The Denver Nuggets erased a 16-point deficit Friday and won at the buzzer, 72-70. The Seattle SuperSonics rallied from 15 points down Nov. 17 and won, 84-78.

“We’re still a young ballclub,” Brand said. “We don’t want to keep using that as an excuse, but it’s true.”

Coach Alvin Gentry continues to plead with his players to begin the offense with a pass to either Brand or center Michael Olowokandi down low. When the Clippers freelance on the perimeter, it’s tough to determine who gets more upset: Gentry, Brand or Olowokandi.

“We’ve got to find a way to get the ball to the post,” Gentry said. “We’ve got to get our perimeter guys thinking about getting the ball in to the post.”

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Twice in the last two games, the Clippers have gone to Olowokandi with the game on the line and he has delivered with a hook shot. He sank one that enabled the Clippers to tie the Nuggets, 70-70, late Friday. He made another over 7-foot-5 center Yao Ming that got the Clippers within 89-88 in the closing seconds Sunday.

Brand, who had a season-best 26 points against the Rockets, leads the Clippers with an average of 16.6 points. Olowokandi is the team’s third-leading scorer with an average of 14.9 points. Brand and Olowokandi are shooting 49.4% each, second-best behind guard Eric Piatkowski’s 50%.

TONIGHT

vs. Utah, 7:30

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Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- KXTA (1150).

Records -- Clippers 5-9, Jazz 7-7.

Record vs. Jazz (2001-02) -- 0-4.

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Update -- Utah has won four consecutive games, putting a temporary halt to the conventional wisdom that says the best days of the Jazz are behind the team. Utah also has won 14 in a row over the Clippers and 18 of the last 20. The Clippers last beat the Jazz on March 27, 1999, at the Arrowhead Pond. Karl Malone leads the Jazz by averaging 19.2 points and seven rebounds in 34.2 minutes. John Stockton is averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 assists in 26.9 minutes.

Tickets -- (800) 462-2849.


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