Maybe the Seattle SuperSonics simply forgot to read the script.
League insiders had insisted less than two weeks ago that Seattle's blockbuster deal for Ray Allen would improve only the SuperSonics' cachet in Hollywood.
Seattle's latest step toward respectability came Saturday with a 109-101 victory over the Clippers in front of a somnambulant 17,471 at Staples Center, where the Clippers did little more than increase their standing in the LeBron James derby.
One night after registering a triple-double against the Lakers at Seattle, Allen poured in 40 points on 12-for-18 shooting to give the SuperSonics their fifth win in six games since his arrival.
"The guy is averaging almost a triple-double," Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry said of Allen, acquired from Milwaukee in a trade for aging superstar Gary Payton. "They got a guy that was seven years younger [than Payton] and a great offensive player."
Predrag Drobnjak scored 19 points for Seattle, which held off a late push by the Clippers in which they trimmed what had been a 17-point deficit to five points in the final minute.
The Clippers were left with their fifth consecutive defeat and 14th in 17 games. Corey Maggette scored 17 points and Andre Miller had 15 for the Clippers, who are eight games behind sixth-place Seattle in the Pacific Division with 23 games remaining.
The Clippers' continued struggles don't figure to soothe their worries about who's going to return next season. Starters Elton Brand, Maggette, Miller and Lamar Odom are all free agents after the season.
"Obviously, we've got to show some kind of improvement or some reason for the owner to want to keep this team together," Gentry said. "One of the things we can do is to start showing improvement so we have something positive to carry into the summer and think about for next year."
The Clippers (19-39) played without Brand, who sat out his third consecutive game because of a stress fracture in his lower left leg. The Clippers didn't miss Brand, their leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, as much as they might have expected, especially early on because of the solid play of Cherokee Parks.
Parks, filling in again for Brand, scored 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter, including a thunderous jam off an alley-oop pass from Miller. Parks threw a nice lob pass of his own in the second quarter, which Eric Piatkowski caught in mid-air and flipped into the basket.
But Parks was a non-factor in the second half, missing both of his shots.
The Clippers had other concerns as well. Center Sean Rooks was ejected with 3 minutes 58 seconds left in the third quarter after barking at officials over a no-call against Seattle big man Reggie Evans underneath the basket. Rooks felt he had been hacked on the play, when he scored over Evans.
Perhaps the only unexpected move by the Clippers was that they didn't wait until the fourth quarter to begin their patented fade. After trailing by only four points at halftime, the Clippers were outscored, 23-12, to open the third quarter.
The crowd booed the Clippers when Allen hit his fifth three-point basket late in the quarter to give Seattle (27-31) a 79-62 lead.
A frenetic push in the final two minutes pulled the Clippers to within 104-99 on two free throws by Miller. Marko Jaric misfired on a three-pointer that could have made it a three-point game with less than 40 seconds to play.
For the Clippers, it was a new brand of March madness.