- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

LOS ANGELES Michael Olowokandi and disappointment have often been used in the same sentence since the Los Angeles Clippers made the 7-foot, 270-pounder the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.
That's seldom the case these days.
Olowokandi, who seems to be getting better with every game, had 22 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday night as the Clippers beat the fast-fading Washington Wizards 96-75 to extend their winning streak to four games their longest since they won four in a row 13 months ago.
More importantly, the Clippers moved within one game of eighth-place Utah and two games of seventh-place Seattle in the Western Conference playoff race.
"Going into the season, I really did have a lot of confidence that we would be capable of making the playoffs," Olowokandi said. "The injuries have made it tough. Whenever anyone went down, the team stepped up and played well. Just playing together has helped us."
Elton Brand recorded his 10th straight double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds and also had five assists and four blocked shots as the Clippers won for the seventh time in eight games.
"Everyone's stepping up. We're not caring about who's scoring the ball, we just care about wins," Brand said. "The defense has been great; that's what's going to get us there. The offensive skills and the highlights that's just extra."
Wizards coach Doug Collins likes the Clippers' chances.
"The thing I'm really impressed with is how good they are defensively," he said. "They overplayed everything. The more frenetic their pressure got, the more we tried to go faster."
And, as Collins pointed out, that didn't work.
The Clippers, who had six players score in double figures, are attempting to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997 and only the third time since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.
"I like the way we're playing," coach Alvin Gentry said.
Richard Hamilton scored 21 points and Courtney Alexander added 13 for the Wizards, who have lost five straight, seven of nine since Michael Jordan underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and 12 of 14 overall. They trail Charlotte by 1 games for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"They were aggressive. They wanted it more than us," Hamilton said.
The Clippers clinched the victory by scoring 10 straight points, including four each by Darius Miles and Olowokandi, for an 86-64 lead with 7:49 remaining. They outscored the Wizards 20-13 in the fourth quarter.

Notes The game at Staples Center was played before 20,282 the Clippers' seventh straight sellout and 16th of the season. … The Clippers shoot for their first five-game winning streak since early in the 1995-96 season tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Clippers beat the Lakers 95-90 on Jan.23 after losing twice to the two-time defending NBA champions earlier. …
The Clippers are three games over .500 this late in a season for the first time since March 15, 1992, when they also were 34-31. They finished 45-37, their last winning final record. … The Clippers, who never trailed, outrebounded the Wizards 14-4 in the first quarter and 48-33 in the game. … The Clippers led 28-18 entering the second period, and the Wizards got no closer than eight points after that.


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