Thornton leads what’s left of Clippers
Bon voyage . . . with a proper send-off provided by Al Thornton.
And, just a reminder, don’t forget to pack the antibiotics.
The bon voyage because the Clippers now embark on a 12-day odyssey -- also known as their longest trip of the season -- after a 95-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on Wednesday in front of 14,874.
The proper send-off because Thornton, playing through a stomach virus, scored a career-high 33 points. He was 13 for 20 from the field to carry a sapped roster and end the team’s three-game losing streak.
The antibiotics because they are desperately needed with leading scorers and rebounders Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette missing another game.
It is Kaman’s third straight game missed. He also has a bruised lower leg and the absence could be attributed to either that or flu-like symptoms. Pick one.
It is Maggette’s second game missed with the flu-like symptoms. His condition was said to worsen Wednesday with a fever and an upset stomach.
Will the pair be healthy enough today to travel with the team for the first stop of the trip Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves?
“I don’t know,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said. “I haven’t asked that question yet. I’m afraid to.”
Can the injury situation get worse?
“I think that’s the first time I can ask, ‘What else can happen?’ ” Dunleavy said before the game.
Which brought a good answer Wednesday: With extended playing time and when he stays out of foul trouble, Thornton can be an exciting player.
Thornton, sent for a doctor’s visit a day earlier and somewhat downcast with news that he was not selected to the rookie All-Star game, established a career high by the end of the third quarter with 28 points and battled dehydration in his 33 minutes.
“I bet they sure are glad they left Al off the rookie team,” Dunleavy said. “I’m going to have to give him some more sick days.”
Thornton’s points came inside. They came outside. They came with a vicious dunk over the Hawks’ Josh Smith in the third quarter. And in the fourth quarter with a driving layup that brought a standing ovation.
His 33 points are two shy of the rookie high this season, accomplished by Seattle’s Kevin Durant, who has scored 35 points twice.
And it is six shy of the franchise rookie high, set by Terry Cummings and Tom Chambers.
“I got into a nice little rhythm and got comfortable out there and that’s it,” Thornton said.
Still, Thornton couldn’t catch a break from his veteran teammates.
“You had one assist, Al?” Cuttino Mobley asked in the locker room afterward, looking at the stat sheet.
“That’s just one more than a dead man.”
Atlanta, which has won only one of its last eight games and was blown out by the Phoenix Suns a night earlier, appeared ragged much of the game before coming back late.
The Clippers blew a 20-point lead, with the Hawks closing to within three points.
But Thornton came through again, blocking an Acie Law layup with 14.9 seconds remaining that would have made it a one-point game.
For a second game, the Clippers (14-28) dressed only nine players.
Now come seven road games, an arduous task for any team, let alone one that could be light on players.
“It will give us a chance to see if we can do something on the road,” point guard Brevin Knight said.
“It will just be us against everybody else. Not too many people are expecting us to win, so we’ll just go out there and have some fun.”