LOS ANGELES -- All year long, the Los Angeles Clippers have been hearing they're one of the NBA's biggest disappointments.
The loss was the fourth in five games for the Lakers (39-36), whose lead over seventh-place Denver in the Western Conference was cut to a half-game. The Clippers (37-37) trail their crosstown rivals by 1½ games, and have a 1½-game lead over Golden State for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West.
"In the fourth quarter, our guys did a great job defensively," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They locked down the last two minutes. I thought we were particularly strong, and that's the way we need to play."
Cuttino Mobley scored 18 points; Chris Kaman had 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots; Jason Hart had 14 points and seven assists, and Elton Brand added 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Clippers, who reached the .500 mark for the first time since Feb. 9.
"On paper, we're one of the best teams in the league," Kaman said. "We're just starting to jell."
The Clippers raised expectations last season by advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 30 years before falling one win shy of reaching the conference finals.
This season has been a struggle from the start.
"We're really just trying to find our way," Maggette said. "We've had so many injuries this year, so many problems. We're doing a lot of good things, and we're still getting better."
The Lakers battled back from a 19-point deficit to draw within two before the Clippers went on a 13-7 run to finish the game.
"We were able to mount a little rally out there," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We didn't finish it well."
The Lakers played without starting center Kwame Brown, who aggravated his sprained left ankle in the second quarter of Tuesday night's 111-105 loss to Denver, and were outrebounded 45-35 by the Clippers.
Clippers guard Sam Cassell didn't play because of back spasms, and probably won't return during the regular season.
Bryant made consecutive baskets to cut the Clippers' lead to 77-75 with 8:11 remaining. Neither team scored after that until Mobley made a follow shot with 5:25 left, putting the Clippers ahead by four.
Maurice Evans made a 3-pointer for his only points of the game to draw the Lakers within one, but the Clippers scored the next seven points to make it 86-78 with 3:12 to play. The Lakers weren't closer than four points after that.
"We've just got to get going," Bryant said. "We understand the sense of urgency we have to play with."
The Clippers hadn't played since Saturday night, while the Lakers were playing their third game in four nights.
But Bryant said he didn't believe fatigue was a factor.
"If fatigue would be a factor, it would be for me. I'm the oldest guy," he said. "I feel fine. You've just got to let it all hang out this late in the season."
The Lakers fell behind by 61-42 early in the third quarter before outscoring the Clippers 27-12 to draw within four. It was 75-69 entering the final period.
Maggette, returning to action after missing one game because of a deep chest bruise, scored 14 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Clippers on top 28-22. They led the rest of the way. It was 57-42 at halftime.
- The game was played before an announced crowd of 20,161 -- the Clippers' 10th sellout this season.
- The Lakers have a 21-6 record against the Clippers under Jackson including 2-1 this season.
- The Clippers will break ground Thursday on a training center in suburban Playa Vista. "It's very positive for us," Dunleavy said. "It's one of the first things I talked about when I came in."
- The Clippers made their first 15 foul shots before Maggette missed two with 6:47 remaining and another pair with 6:08 left.
- Jackson said he expects F Vladimir Radmanovic, sidelined since separating his right shoulder during the All-Star break, to be cleared for practice next week.
- Brand was selected by a five-member panel of former players as one of five divisional winners for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which he won last year.