Kings defeat Clippers to avoid a season sweep

SACRAMENTO -- Even in a meaningless April game between two losing teams before thousands of empty seats, Kevin Martin and Elton Brand were hard at work on their futures.

Martin hit four 3-pointers while scoring 26 points, and the Kings avoided a four-game sweep by the last-place Los Angeles Clippers with a 110-98 victory Thursday.

While Sacramento coach Reggie Theus praised Martin for taking another small step toward becoming a complete scorer, Brand took another big step forward in his comeback from surgery on his Achilles tendon. The Clippers' power forward had 15 points and nine rebounds in his second game back from a 74-game absence, but he couldn't stop Sacramento's easy run to its fourth victory in five games.

Theus praised Martin for learning to get "the easy points" -- a skill Theus knows well from his own days on the hardwood.

"He's starting to adapt to the game now," Theus said. "I'm seeing things from him that I didn't see before. He's scoring easier in our offense now."

Sacramento already had lost three times this season to the Clippers, who have lost 12 of 14.

After hitting two 3-pointers in the final 23 seconds before halftime, Martin scored nine points in the third quarter as the Kings pulled away. Though well out of the playoff race, Sacramento (35-40) already has surpassed its 33-win total from last season, when its streak of eight consecutive postseason appearances ended with a thud.

"It was in the back of our minds, how we had lost to them four times, including the preseason," Martin said. "It was about time for us to get a win against them."

Corey Maggette scored 28 points while injured veterans Chris Kaman, Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas sat out their second consecutive game for the Clippers, who still beat the SuperSonics on Wednesday night in Brand's season debut.

ROCKETS 95, TRAIL BLAZERS 86, at Portland, Ore. -- Tracy McGrady scored 26 of his 35 points in the second half of Houston's victory over Portland.

BULLS 101, CAVALIERS 98, at Cleveland -- Larry Hughes scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half against his former team, rallying Chicago past Cleveland. LeBron James had a game-high 33 points in a losing cause.

TIP-INS -- Miami forward Shawn Marion will miss the final seven games of the season because of a left foot injury. Marion has been sidelined with back spasms that forced him to sit out 11 of the past 12 games. ... Denver forward Kenyon Martin was suspended for one game without pay for exceeding the flagrant foul total with five.

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