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CLIPPERS SUFFER A KING-SIZED DEFEAT DEPLETED SACRAMENTO HAS EASY TIME IN ROUT SACRAMENTO 110, CLIPPERS 93.

Byline: Joe Stevens Staff Writer

The Clippers' meeting with the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night could have had all the makings of a feel-good Clipper story. The Kings were on a five-game losing streak, without three of their top players, and could have easily played the role of patsy.

Not even close.

The Clippers looked out of sync all night, fell down by 23 points in the third quarter and fell out of first place in the Pacific Division with a 110-93 loss to the short-handed Kings in front of 18,151 at Staples Center.

The Kings (11-17) have the second-worst record in the Western Conference, but even if they're struggling, they're accustomed to having their way with the Clippers. They beat Los Angeles for a 10th consecutive time.

The Clippers had numerous problems, but the most glaring difference was the difference in guard play. The Kings' Mike Bibby had 38 points and 10 assists, while the Clippers' Sam Cassell had just three points on 1-of-12 shooting.

Bibby's 38 points were an individual high for a Clippers' opponent this season.

Cuttino Mobley also had an off-night shooting, going 9 of 23 for 19 points. Cassell and Mobley repeatedly took jump shots but combined for 25 misses.

While the Clippers obviously were suffering from their injuries and threw various lineups, which included rookies Yaroslav Korolev and Boniface Ndong, at the Kings, their injuries paled in comparison to their opponents. The short-handed Kings were without the injured Peja Stojakovic, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Bonzi Wells.

The Clippers never led. Sacramento was up by 17 in the second quarter and led 59-44 at halftime.

Although it appeared that the second half could not get worse, the Clippers trailed by 23 in the third quarter and Sacramento maintained a 20-point lead throughout most of the fourth quarter.

Despite the Kings' dominant effort, Clippers forward Elton Brand still had a strong night, finishing with 25 points and six rebounds.

Sacramento, however, had an answer for Brand and for pretty much everything the Clippers did. The Kings' big man, Brad Miller, had 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Statistically, the Clippers might not have looked far behind the Kings in most major categories, except for two glaring shooting stats. No. 1: The Kings shot 7 of 16 (43.8 percent) from 3-point range, while the Clippers were 0 of 8. No. 2: The Kings made 35 free throws to the Clippers' 15.

All season long, coach Mike Dunleavy has tempered the Clippers' expectations with injury concerns. Corey Maggette, the Clippers' second-leading scorer to Brand, is expected to be out a month because of ligament damage in his left foot, meaning this could be an extremely trying month.

In his absence, Shaun Livingston has been starting, giving the Clippers three guards - along with Cassell and Mobley - in the starting lineup. Quinton Ross could start when Maggette is out, but he has been out with back spasms.

The Clippers might need to acquire a small forward to weather Maggette's absence, but Dunleavy said that wasn't certain.

``We'll see,'' he said. ``We're looking at different stuff. If something were apparent to us, we would do something. But right now, there's nothing that is. You kind of got to weigh your options and what the possibilities are.''

Joe Stevens, (562) 499-1338

joe.stevens(at)presstelegram.com

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photo

Photo:

The Clippers' Chris Kaman fouls Sacramento's Francisco Garcia during Tuesday's game at Staples Center.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 28, 2005
Words:578
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