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Clippers satisfied after loss to Spurs

Times Staff Writer

First, the good news for the Clippers: They lost to the San Antonio Spurs by nine points, 93-84, Tuesday in front of a sellout crowd of 18,797 at the AT&T; Center.

The score indicated improvement for a team that suffered 29-, 22- and 14-point defeats in its previous meetings this season with the formidable Spurs, players said, and the Clippers could only face San Antonio again in the postseason.

Of course, qualifying for the playoffs is becoming more difficult for the struggling Clippers, who have lost four in a row.

The Clippers (29-34) dropped the opener of what they described as a make-or-break trip but still occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, a half a game ahead of the Golden State Warriors.

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The Clippers pushed the Spurs in the second half and trailed by only six points late in the fourth quarter, but San Antonio (46-18) again showed why it is among the NBA’s elite, finishing strong in its season-high 13th consecutive victory.

“This Spurs team, they are not just a good team, they are a great team,” said Corey Maggette, who led the Clippers with 17 points. “Tony Parker really took his team on his shoulders and hurt us at some really big moments.”

Parker scored a game-high 25 points.

The point guard dismantled the Clippers’ defense inside with a runner and driving layup to push the lead to 10 points with 3:23 left in the fourth.

The Clippers failed to counter-punch, missing four consecutive shots in one stretch as the Spurs held on to sweep the season series and extend their winning streak over the Clippers in San Antonio to nine games.

“We did pretty well throughout controlling the game,” said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who had 19 points and nine rebounds. “We kept them at a distance of six to 10 points.”

As is often the case here, the Spurs had a significant advantage in free throws against an opponent, shooting 23 (they made 18) to only seven for the Clippers.

Although frustrated about the disparity in free throws, the Clippers said they missed too many good shots to complain about the officials’ role in the outcome. The Spurs also produced 22 points off of only 13 Clippers turnovers.

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But there was more good than bad in the outcome for the Clippers, they said, and that’s what they need now.

“We played them the best that we’ve played them,” said Elton Brand, who scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “We missed a lot of easy shots. We didn’t have too many turnovers, but they got 22 points off of our turnovers.

“We’re still in the eighth spot, in spite of everything, but we need to start winning. If we keep playing like we did tonight, we will start winning.”

Brand and Duncan played to a draw, and Tim Thomas (15 points) provided a boost off the bench similar to what the Spurs received from sixth man Manu Ginobili (16 points). Parker provided the difference.

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Jason Hart, Parker’s primary backup in the 2003-04 season, fouled out while trying to contain the speedy five-year veteran. Parker got into the lane and made things happen, which seems to occur whenever the Clippers face quick point guards.

“He’s tough inside,” Brand said. “He’s right up there with Shaq, statistically, in field goals made in the paint.

“Our convergence on him wasn’t really all that bad. We just fell off of him a little bit, and that’s all he needed.”

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jason.reid@latimes.com

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KEYS TO THE GAME

* The Clippers struggle against speedy point guards, and San Antonio’s Tony Parker (25 points) is among the game’s quickest.

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* The Clippers shot 49.4% from the field, but they missed too many shots around the basket.

* The Spurs shot 23 free throws (they made 18) and the Clippers shot only seven.

-- JASON REID


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