Reeling Hawks' comeback try falls short against Clippers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Al Thornton's best game as a pro nearly was wasted -- until he came up with a critical blocked shot in the final seconds to help preserve a much-needed victory for the Los Angeles Clippers.

The rookie scored a season-high 33 points and the Clippers held off a furious late rally to beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-88 on Wednesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Forced to use their 20th different starting lineup due to injuries and illness that kept leading scorer Corey Maggette and leading rebounder Chris Kaman sidelined, the Clippers were able to dress only nine players for the second straight game -- including Thornton, who sat out Tuesday's practice because of a stomach virus.

"I felt dehydrated, but it kind of wore off a little bit," Thornton said. "I was pretty much throwing up all day yesterday. I think it was something I ate. I tried to gut it out, though.

"I just wanted to come out here and play hard, because we've been in a drought. Two of our main guys, Corey and Kaman, were out. So I tried to step up and provide some scoring."

Sam Cassell and Tim Thomas each added 14 points, helping Los Angeles win for just the fifth time in 20 games.

Josh Smith had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who have dropped three straight and seven of their last eight.

"That's kind of how it's been the last few games," said Joe Johnson, who scored 17 for the Hawks. "We have to distinguish whether we are going to be a good team or just an OK team. Right now we haven't been playing up to our capabilities. We have a spurt where we don't look so good, and then we have a spurt where we look like one of the best teams in the league."

Quinton Ross' dunk gave the Clippers a 20-point lead with 7:17 remaining. After center Aaron Williams blew a dunk attempt on the Clippers' next possession, the Hawks stunned them with a 19-2 surge that narrowed the gap to 91-88 with 46 seconds to play. Smith capped the rally with a three-point play.

Cuttino Mobley missed two layups for the Clippers that would have decided the issue earlier, but Thornton rejected Acie Law's driving layup, Johnson missed a 21-footer with 8 seconds to go, and the Clippers put it away with two free throws each by Cassell and Ross.

"[Law] had a clear lane. I was on the weak side, just trying to come over and make a play and alter his shot, and I was able to get the block," Thornton said.

Maggette missed his second game in a row because of flu-like symptoms, the same bug that kept Kaman sidelined for a third straight game -- in addition to his bruised left shin.

Two other players also were less than 100 percent. Point guard Brevin Knight has been playing the past few weeks with a stress reaction in his lower left leg, and Aaron Williams is still hampered by a sprained left wrist -- which could have been a factor in his missed dunk down the stretch.

Knight left the game with 10:17 remaining, the result of a contusion near his left eye. He was elbowed by Marvin Williams as the Hawks' forward was positioning himself for a shot.

Despite all that adversity, the Clippers were able to prevail against an already demoralized Atlanta squad that had lost by 33 points at Phoenix on Tuesday night after blowing a 19-point lead in Sunday's loss at Portland. The only Clipper who dressed and didn't play was reserve point guard Dan Dickau, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Hawks.

A crowd of 14,874 came out to see the Clippers before they embarked on a seven-game road trip that will keep them away from Staples Center until Feb. 13. The trip begins Friday night at Minnesota, where they will attempt to snap a seven-game road skid against the team with the NBA's worst record (9-36).

Game notes
The Clippers' road trip will be the 13th in franchise history that lasts seven or more games. They were 0-7 three times, and never finished with a winning record in any season that included a road trip of more than six games. When they were Buffalo Braves, they ended the 1972-73 campaign with eight straight on the road -- all losses. ... Horford's father, Tito, was a teammate of Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy's with the Milwaukee Bucks for a total of seven games spanning the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons. Dunleavy, who had retired after the 1984-85 campaign due to a back injury, was an assistant coach with Milwaukee during that time -- but returned to the court on an emergency basis because of injuries in the Bucks' backcourt. ... Atlanta coach Mike Woodson was the Clippers' leading scorer in each of his two seasons with them. He averaged 17.1 points in 1986-87, when they finished a franchise-worst 12-70 under coach Don Chaney; and averaged 18.0 points in 1987-88, when they were 17-65 under Gene Shue. Both of those seasons included 0-7 road trips.

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