LOS ANGELES -- Sam Cassell's chronic foot problems helped put the Los Angeles Clippers in a huge hole. Now that he's back and spreading the floor for Elton Brand, they're starting to look more like the playoff team they were last season.
Brand scored a season-high 34 points, and Cassell added 21 points and a season-high 14 assists to help the Clippers rout the Memphis Grizzlies 112-91 Saturday.
Cassell played 36 minutes while Shaun Livingston sat out his second straight game because of a sprained right ankle.
"Sam's been out with injuries and his conditioning isn't great," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "There are a lot of nights when he's really dragging, physically, but we've been working in practice, trying to fill his tank up a little bit so that he will be able to finish."
Pau Gasol scored 27 points for Memphis, which is 4-7 since player personnel director Tony Barone Sr. became head coach in the wake of Mike Fratello's firing on Dec. 28.
The Clippers won the season series 3-0 after losing 11 of the 13 previous meetings with the Grizzlies. Brand scored 24 points in the first half and finished 13-for-23 from the field.
"Elton and Sam are real tremendous players, and they will find ways to tear you apart no matter what you try to do," Barone said. "In terms of defense, they just dissect you. If you make a little mistake, they take advantage of it."
Chris Kaman had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who are 19-21 after going 47-35 last season and making it to the second round of the playoffs.
"I'm not sure what happened to us, whether it's the injuries or what. But you can't become fat cats," Brand said. "We had a lot of lofty goals at the beginning of the season, and a lot of teams were coming after us. Now we're the hunters and we're trying to come after teams and pile up some victories so that we can get back in this playoff hunt."
Brand, who scored a career-high 44 points against Memphis at Staples Center on April 13, 2006, propelled Los Angeles to a 63-40 halftime lead. The Clippers came in forcing the fewest turnovers per game (13.6), scored 18 first-half points off 15 Memphis giveaways.
"We were aggressive; we did a good job on our double-teams and our hands were active," Dunleavy said. "We had 29 deflections, which is a solid number defensively for us."
The Clippers tied a season high with 39 points in the second period, outscoring Memphis 20-3 over the final 6:14. Seven of the Grizzlies' 21 turnovers came in the final 6:12 of the half, including three bad passes by forward Mike Miller.
"We had a really bad second quarter," Gasol said. "We fell apart. We were a little selfish and our intensity went down. Unfortunately, we're not good enough to afford this kind of breakdown."
Brand's layup gave Los Angeles a 20-point cushion with 9:09 to play. The Grizzlies cut it to 99-87 with a 12-4 run capped by Lawrence Roberts' layup and Rudy Gay's fast-break dunk with 5:12 remaining. But Brand helped thwart the comeback with a running jumper and a dunk 50 seconds apart, restoring the Clippers' 20-point lead with 1:58 left.
"It was disappointing that we let them come back, but I was always confident we were going to win," Brand said. "We had a pretty big lead that last game that we let slip a little bit. So we have to pay more attention to detail and put teams away -- because when you play upper-echelon teams, you can't give them a second chance because they'll come and take it from you."
The Grizzlies completed the first half of their schedule an NBA-worst 10-31 and are 2-18 on the road. Last season, they were 25-16 at this stage en route to a 49-33 finish -- and a first-round loss to Dallas in the playoffs.
|Elton Brand dominates the paint all game, scoring 34 points on 13-for-23 shooting. (Getty Images)|
|L.A. Clippers (19-21) «||24||39||26||23||112|
|MEM:P. Gasol 27 Pts
MEM:P. Gasol 7 Reb
MEM:M. Miller 7 Ast
|LAC:E. Brand 34 Pts
LAC:C. Maggette 9 Reb
LAC:S. Cassell 14 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|M. Miller, SF||41||5-11||2-4||4||7||0||13|
|P. Gasol, C||38||9-14||9-9||7||3||1||27|
|R. Gay, SG||36||7-12||1-1||5||3||2||17|
|D. Stoudamire, PG||26||0-6||0-1||1||5||1||0|
|A. Johnson, PF||19||2-2||0-2||6||1||4||4|
|C. Atkins, PG||22||4-8||0-0||2||2||2||10|
|L. Roberts, PF||22||3-8||2-4||6||0||2||8|
|D. Jones, SG||12||0-3||2-2||1||3||0||2|
|H. Warrick, PF||10||4-4||2-2||1||1||3||10|
|T. Kinsey, SG||8||0-2||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|J. Tsakalidis, C||6||0-1||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|E. Jones, SG||Did Not Play|
|B. Cardinal, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Swift, C||Did Not Play|
|K. Lowry, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|C. Maggette, SG||32||4-11||3-6||9||1||2||11|
|Q. Ross, SF||32||4-9||0-0||7||0||3||8|
|C. Mobley, SG||28||4-9||3-3||1||5||3||11|
|C. Kaman, C||24||6-10||0-0||9||0||5||12|
|S. Livingston, PG||Did Not Play|
|E. Brand, PF||40||13-23||8-8||4||5||2||34|
|S. Cassell, PG||35||9-16||2-2||3||14||3||21|
|P. Davis, C||16||1-4||0-0||6||1||2||2|
|T. Thomas, SF||15||2-4||1-1||3||1||2||5|
|D. Ewing, PG||13||2-2||2-2||1||3||0||6|
|J. Singleton, PF||1||1-1||0-0||0||0||0||2|
|A. Williams, C||Did Not Play|
|Z. Rebraca, C||Did Not Play|
|Y. Korolev, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|