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Clippers fall back to their old ways

Heisler is a Times staff writer.

And now, Clippers on a roll?

Unfortunately for the local trolls, it was another extremely short roll, consisting of one victory, Saturday in Minnesota, before another attempt to put wins back to back vanished in another fourth quarter when they blew another lead.

This time, it was the Orlando Magic, which came from nine points behind at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Clippers, 95-88, Monday night at Staples Center.

Twenty-one games into the season, there are two words yet to be spoken together in Clipperdom -- winning streak.

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Their last chance to win two in a row came last week in Dallas, where they took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter and lost that one too.

“I coach every night to win the game,” said the Clippers’ Mike Dunleavy, the losingest NBA coach who hasn’t been fired this season.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” Dunleavy said of the possibility of his being fired. “I think we’re headed in the right direction. I think we’ve got a good group. We haven’t had our whole group together all season, or in the preseason.”

Orlando’s Dwight Howard. who turned 23 Monday, devoured the home team in lieu of a birthday cake, scoring 23 points with 22 rebounds and six blocks.

Howard now gets the full Shaquille O’Neal treatment: The Clippers sent him to the free-throw line 18 times, of which he made nine.

Nor were the Clippers too careful how they did it. In the fourth quarter, Zach Randolph hauled him down by the neck, earning a flagrant foul.

With two shots and possession, Howard made both free throws and Jameer Nelson then hit a 20-footer, making it a four-point play as the Magic pulled away.

For Orlando, it was the first game of a five-game West Coast trip with harder games coming up in Portland today, Phoenix on Friday and Utah on Saturday.

Nevertheless, Coach Stan van Gundy wasn’t counting his sheep, er, Clippers, before they were shorn.

“I think any team where you’ve got Zach Randolph, Baron Davis, Al Thornton, three guys who can really score and then put [Marcus] Camby alongside them, one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the league, with Eric Gordon, a very good rookie, that’s a very good starting lineup,” said Van Gundy before the game.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, as has been the case more often than not, their starting lineup didn’t look very good once it got out on the court.

The Magic zipped into a 14-2 lead, with the Clippers taking a team pratfall, highlighted by Gordon missing his first wide-open three-pointer, getting a second moments later and air-balling that one.

With 2:20 left in the first quarter, the Orlando lead was up to 24-9, and it didn’t look fair to put the same teams on the same court.

At that point, however, Howard went out for a rest and the Clippers closed the quarter with a 10-2 run, pulling to within 26-19.

From then on until halftime, the Clippers kept coming, energized by backup point guard Mike Taylor with Randolph doing the heavy lifting, to the tune of 13 points and seven rebounds, zooming past the Magic to take a 48-42 halftime lead. Baron Davis splashed a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, giving the Clippers a 75-66 lead.

However, the Magic then scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter. For the Clippers, it was deja vu all over again.

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mark.heisler@latimes.com


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