for this game

Thornton scores career high as Clippers down Hawks

Jan 31, 2008 - 7:16 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Healthy or not, the Los Angeles Clippers found a momentary cure for their ills.

Rookie Al Thornton scored a career-high 33 points as the undermanned Clippers stopped a three-game slide with a 95-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Tim Thomas finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and Sam Cassell added 14 points for the Clippers, who dressed only nine players for the second straight game due to injuries and illness.

"I just tried to come out here and play hard, we've been in a drought," Thornton said. "We have two of our main guys, Corey (Maggette) and (Chris) Kaman out. I tried to step up and provide some scoring."

Los Angeles was again without its two top scorers, center Kaman and swingman Maggette, as both continue to sit out because of the flu.

Thornton almost joined the duo on the bench as he also was feeling the effects of some flu-like symptoms, but turned out to be the Clippers' sparkplug against the Hawks.

"I was able to get into a nice little rhythm, I was able to get into a zone and that was it," Thornton said. "My teammates kept coming to me, so I shot the ball."

The first-year forward hit 13-of-20 shots off the bench, eclipsing his previous career high of 25 points by amassing 28 before the end of the third quarter.

"He was in a zone," Hawks rookie center Al Horford said. "I think he is one of the best rookies, one of the best guys in our class, and he's capable of that type of game."

Thornton continued his strong play to begin the fourth, scoring five straight points as the Clippers opened up a 79-61 lead.

"He has been doing this enough in practice," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "This is how he plays. It is just a matter of time before he starts breaking out."

Los Angeles appeared to have put the game away when it extended the advantage to 87-67 after Quinton Ross hit a short jumper and converted a layup with 7:17 remaining.

But the Hawks did not go quietly, putting together a 21-4 run over the next seven minutes to narrow the lead to 91-88 with 12 seconds left in the game.

"I thought we extended our defense and started to make something happen, but it was too late," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.

Thornton once again stepped up big for Los Angeles, blocking fellow rookie Acie Law's layup in the closing seconds to seal the victory.

Despite leading early, the Hawks continue to struggle of late, having lost seven of their last eight games.

They gave the Clippers a run in the third, getting within 56-52 on Josh Smith's dunk, moments after Cassell exited the game after picking up his fourth foul going for a loose ball.

But Los Angeles closed the third on a 18-9 run to carry a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter, which the Hawks failed to overcome.

"That's kind of how it's been the last few games," Hawks forward Joe Johnson said. "We come out, 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."

Smith collected 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Johnson contributed 17 points for Atlanta.

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