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Thornton makes most of minutes

Times Staff Writer

The Clippers held tight in two losses in Texas last week, but the overriding encouraging sign, through the haze of injuries, was rookie forward Al Thornton’s play against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a career-high 43 minutes, Thornton scored 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting. He scored 15 points in the second half and, along with center Chris Kaman, kept the Clippers in the game against the reigning champions.

It’s something he and Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy hope he can grow on.

“I got a lot of minutes,” Thornton said. “I was able to play pretty much not worried about making mistakes and playing through the mistakes. Whenever it’s like that, I think I can play pretty well.”

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The opportunity was created by injuries -- of course -- with Corey Maggette sitting with a sore knee and Tim Thomas sustaining a knee injury in the first quarter.

Thornton, drafted out of Florida State, had struggled since a stellar preseason with the pace of the NBA. But the team released forward Ruben Patterson, in part, to give Thornton additional playing time.

“He had games like that in the preseason,” Dunleavy said. “We got off to a good start offensively with our team. We used him sparingly as a rookie starting out. Sometimes you lose your rhythm and confidence starting out and we have been trying to bring it back.”

Veteran point guard Sam Cassell liked what he saw from Thornton against the Spurs.

“Al just has to learn how to play,” he said. “He can play. He has to learn how to play the NBA game.

“He made shots. He had an opportunity to take good shots and he made them.”

Thomas, who injured his left knee in Saturday’s loss to the Spurs, will have an MRI exam on Wednesday.

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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