Finally, Eric Piatkowski can read the newspaper without trepidation.
Lorenzen Wright had a career-high 25 rebounds to go with 12 points, and Darrick Martin had 18 points and 11 assists Thursday night as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Sacramento Kings 106-92 to snap their season-opening 17-game losing streak.
Piatkowski added 16 points to equal his season-high as the Clippers pulled away in the final 5@1/2 minutes for their first victory in nearly 11 months.
"Tomorrow, I'll read the sports page for the first time in a month," Piatkowski said with a smile. "We finally put it together for four quarters."
For a while, it appeared that might not be the case. By early in the final period, the Clippers had blown all but two points of an 18-point third-quarter lead.
They led by three points midway through the fourth quarter before back-to-back 3-point shots by Martin and Piatkowski triggered a game-closing 15-4 run.
As time wound down, the victorious players allowed themselves a few smiles.
"You know what? I wasn't worried," Martin said after his team's first win since an 83-77 victory over the Kings in Sacramento last April 18 on the final day of the 1997-98 season. "In this league, teams make runs. They're a good team, but I wasn't worried."
About the win, Martin said, "It's very big. We're not an 0-17 team, period. I'll go on record saying that."
Not anymore, they're not. Another loss and the Clippers' start to this season would have stood alone as the worst in NBA history. The Miami Heat began the 1988-89 season with 17 straight losses.
"I feel bad, I'm just embarrassed," said Vlade Divac, who led the Kings with 19 points and seven rebounds. "I think we made them feel better."
Playing under first-year coach Chris Ford, the Clippers tied Miami's record ednesday night, losing 94-75 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
"They all contributed and they're all very happy that the streak has ended, and hopefully it's the beginning of something new," Ford said of his players. "We finally shot the ball well; our shooters came to life tonight."
The Clippers made 41 of their 89 field goal attempts (46.1 percent) including 8-of-18 from 3-point range.
Lamond Murray scored 15 points and rookie Tyrone Nesby and Maurice Taylor added 13 each for the Clippers.
Wright was limited to 27 minutes due to foul trouble, just eight in the second half. But he led his team to a 58-35 rebounding advantage.
"I was going to try and make a difference by getting every rebound," said Wright, who got his team's first seven rebounds. "That's what I was trying to do."
"I'm very happy, we've been waiting for a win for so long."
Chris Webber had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Lawrence Funderburke also scored 17 for the Kings.
"The good teams don't lose," Webber said. "Utah wouldn't have come here and lost. The Lakers wouldn't have come here and lost. But good old Sacramento, we come here and lose."
Despite playing their third game in as many nights, the Clippers never trailed, taking the lead for good in the opening 2@1/2 minutes and leading 66-52 at halftime behind Wright's 20 rebounds one more than the entire Sacramento team managed.
The Clippers, who lost their first 16 games of the 1994-95 season, extended their lead to 18 points in the opening 2@1/2 minutes of the third quarter. The Kings then went on a 15-2 run to make it 74-69, and it was 80-75 entering the final period.
Wright had 11 rebounds to help the Clippers go ahead 21-7 in the game's first eight minutes their biggest lead of the season to that point.
The Kings drew within five points late in the opening quarter before the Clippers went on a 12-2 run to make it 38-23 early in the second period.
Los Angeles led by as many as 17 points before settling for its 14-point halftime lead.
Notes: The game was played before an announced crowd of 7,884 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. ... Wright finished the first quarter with 13 rebounds to equal the franchise record set by Michael Cage against Houston on Feb. 12, 1988. ... Wright's previous career high in rebounds was 22, which he surpassed in the opening three minutes of the third quarter, and his season high entering the game was 13. ... Wright's 20 first-half rebounds were one shy of the franchise record of 21 by Swen Nater against Denver on Dec. 14, 1979. ... The Kings, 4-2 at home and 5-9 on the road, have played the fewest home games and most road games in the NBA. ... The Clippers have now won their last seven home games against the Kings. ... The game was the first of five in six days for the Kings. In addition to playing their third game in three days, the Clippers are in the idst of a five-game, six-day stretch, with games Saturday and Sunday nights.
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