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Mobley gets up to speed in a hurry

Times Staff Writer

Unsuccessful in their efforts to acquire Ray Allen and other long-range shooters before the 2005-06 season, the Clippers offered Cuttino Mobley a five-year, $42-million contract.

Mobley signed the richest contract in team history for an incoming free agent, and then his shooting on three-pointers dropped from 43.9% to 33.9% last season.

But Mobley is off to a strong start this season.

He’s averaging 17.8 points while shooting 49.3% from the field and 44.4% from behind the three-point arc.

The eight-year veteran had a game-high 28 points (on 10 of 15 shooting from the field), seven rebounds and four steals in Wednesday’s 103-85 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.

Mobley’s efficient scoring enabled the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, to pull within seven points of the Mavericks at halftime. His aggressive moves on offense in the second half provided a spark as the Clippers outscored Dallas, 60-35.

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“He was terrific,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said. “He gave us big buckets and took over the game.

“That forced them to have to come double-team, which opened up other opportunities to offensive rebound or get good buckets from other places. It was a sensational game from Cuttino. It was his best game here. Period.”

Mobley made his biggest contribution, however, defending Mavericks All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.

Often matched one on one against the 7-foot Nowitzki, the 6-foot-4 Mobley stood firm and Nowitzki struggled, missing 13 of 20 shots from the field. Mobley last season often guarded small forwards because Corey Maggette sat out 50 games.

“Cuttino is a good defender,” Dunleavy said. “I thought he saved our year by playing small forwards when Corey was injured. He played all those small forwards defensively so well.

“If you had told me before last season that Corey would miss 50 games, I wouldn’t have thought we had much of a chance to make the playoffs in that kind of situation. But Cuttino was able to come in and play bigger people.”

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The Clippers’ depth and versatility have enabled Dunleavy to exploit matchups even more than last season.

Maggette, Mobley and point guard Sam Cassell are considered good post-up players, and Dunleavy has given them many opportunities near the basket.

The Mavericks struggled Wednesday to guard the Clippers in the post.

“Those guys made shots,” Dallas Coach Avery Johnson said. “We put small guards on them and they like to post up. They got those matchups early and they did it big.”

jason.reid@latimes.com


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