Clippers off to a better start than Lakers

Saturday, December 4, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers long have been the NBA's doormat. Now they might be the best team in a town that has come to expect championships from the Lakers.

The Clippers are coming off their best November in 30 years, and that's going back to their Buffalo Braves days. Instead of thinking ahead to yet another lottery pick, they look like a playoff contender in the rugged Western Conference.

Heading into this weekend they had a better record than the storied Lakers, the team with which they share an arena.

"I have always looked at their team as being young and explosive," Cleveland coach Paul Silas said after the Clippers beat the Cavaliers 94-82 earlier this week.

The game was the fourth in five nights for the Clippers -- all wins -- and only the second loss in 11 games for the Cavaliers. The win gave the Clippers a 9-6 record, the second-best November in franchise history.

Cleveland star LeBron James, who was held to two points in the fourth quarter and 22 overall, said the Clippers -- like his Cavs -- no longer are an easy opponent.

"They've started to turn it around in the Western Conference," James said. "So we're two common teams."

Silas said the Clippers simply needed to get the right coach, and to run that coach's system. He said that coach is Mike Dunleavy, who is in his second season with the Clippers.

An amazing night

Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets put on a show Thursday night. The Mavericks beat the Rockets 113-106 in overtime, with Nowitzki scoring 53 points, the most ever by a Dallas player and tops in the NBA this season. McGrady had 48.

"This was by far one of the best I've ever been a part of, two of the league's superstars both putting their teams on their backs," Houston forward Juwan Howard said.

"I'm going to be telling my kids about this one," said Dallas forward Josh Howard.

Nowitzki also had season highs in rebounds (16) and blocks (four).

-- From wire reports

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