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CLIPPERS SNAP SKID VS. KINGS L.A. DEFEATS SACRAMENTO FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 14 GAMES CLIPPERS 102, SACRAMENTO.

Byline: RICH HAMMOND Staff Writer

Ron Artest made his season debut at Staples Center on Friday, as had been rumored in recent days. Many believed, though, that Artest would be a member of the Clippers, as part of a deal that would have sent Corey Maggette to Sacramento, but the teams seemed prepared to move forward without a trade.

So Artest dressed in the gaudy gold road uniforms that the Kings featured, and the Clippers set out to end a nasty streak against the Kings. The Clippers had lost 14 consecutive games to the Kings, dating almost four years, but they finally snapped that with a 102-93 victory over Sacramento on Friday night at Staples Center.

After a close first half, the Clippers trailed by one point early in the third quarter when they went on a 17-5 run, keyed by four consecutive jumpers by Elton Brand, that gave them a 67-56 lead. Brand scored 10 points in the quarter and the Clippers led by as many as 16 points in the period. Through three quarters, Brand led the Clippers with 20 points, followed by Maggette with 18 points.

Mike Bibby had 16 points to lead a balanced Sacramento attack.With general manager Elgin Baylor settled into his courtside seat, the Clippers went another day without a trade, although attempts to move Maggette are still being made and could happen at any time.

But the Clippers players had more immediate concerns. Their run of futility against the Kings is stunning, given how well they have played in the last two-plus seasons, but the Clippers last won in January 2003.

The Clippers, in search of their first back-to-back victories since Dec. 5, looked shaky early when Shaun Livingston picked up two fouls in three minutes and the Kings scored eight of the game's first 10 points.

Sacramento's dribble penetration, executed particularly well by Kevin Martin, gave the Clippers some trouble in the opening minutes but the Clippers held a slim lead for most of the first half.

Quinton Ross' driving layup gave the Clippers a one-point lead after the first quarter, and they eventually pushed their advantage to six points when Aaron Williams' short jumper made the score 35-29.

Sacramento chipped away throughout the second quarter but the Clippers led 46-45 at halftime.

Maggette, the subject of countless trade rumors this month, had one of his better halves of the season. Maggette came off the bench and totaled 13 points and five rebounds in 15 first-half minutes. With Livingston in foul trouble, the Clippers hung tough and Chris Kaman had 10 points and five rebounds.

With the loss of point guard Sam Caseell to a foot injury, the Clippers have been searching for a cohesive unit and Friday they attempted to duplicate the effort they had in a blowout of Boston on Wednesday.

If nothing else, the Clippers appear to have settled on a starting lineup. The combination of Brand, Tim Thomas, Kaman, Cuttino Mobley and Shaun Livingston had helped the Clippers to victories in two of their last three games, and Daniel Ewing has taken on a bigger role as the backup point guard.

Things couldn't have started much worse for the Clippers. With Cassell sidelined, Livingston didn't last long, as he picked up two fouls in the first three minutes and forced the Clippers to turn to Ewing.

Ewing, a second-year guard, played the rest of the quarter and didn't flinch, The Clippers trailed by as many as seven points in the first quarter but closed the quarter with an 8-0 run and took the lead.

rich.hammond@dailynews.com

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 30, 2006
Words:603
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