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Clippers feel like money-burners

Times Staff Writer

What is Donald T. Sterling thinking now?

Once considered among the worst owners in professional sports, Sterling has spent lavishly since last summer, granting almost every request of the Clippers’ basketball-operations staff.

And here’s the return on Sterling’s investment so far this season: His team has one of the worst records in the NBA.

In their poorest performance of many clunkers, the Clippers suffered their biggest margin of defeat this season and lost their sixth consecutive game, 115-83, to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,311 at American Airlines Center.

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The Mavericks became the latest opponent to expose the Clippers’ weaknesses on defense in a 32-point blowout victory, making a season-high 15 three-pointers in 27 attempts. Former Lakers forward Devean George made five of six three-pointers and scored a season-high 21 points off the bench.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while playing on a sore left ankle. The Mavericks made 51.2% of their shots overall, compared with 41.2% for the Clippers.

The Clippers (10-15) trailed by as many as 43 points in the fourth quarter, dropped to 1-9 as a visiting team and are last in the Pacific Division, eight games behind the first-place Phoenix Suns.

That’s not what Sterling envisioned when he approved several costly moves, including, in order, signing Tim Thomas for $24 million, re-signing Sam Cassell for $13 million, rewarding Chris Kaman with a $52.5-million extension and elevating Mike Dunleavy among the league’s highest-paid coaches with a $22-million deal.

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What’s more, the Clippers plan to soon start construction on a state-of-the art Westside practice facility.

For all of that, Sterling deserves better, players said.

“Mr. Sterling? He’s thinking, ‘What the hell have I done?’ ” said Elton Brand, who scored his 18 points in the first half.

“He’s got to be. Even spending no money, he was getting better results than this. But hopefully, he’s also thinking that these guys have pride, and that they’re going to turn this thing around. That’s what I’m thinking.”

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Although the Mavericks (20-7) are among the Western Conference’s top teams, the Clippers said it was unacceptable for any opponent to shoot 55.6% on three-pointers against them.

“It’s baffling,” Dunleavy said of the Clippers’ problems on defense. “Right now, for some reason, our guys are all a step slow. I can’t put a handle on it.”

jason.reid@latimes.com


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