Thursday, December 23, 2004

Brunson, Clippers Run Past Hornets in Overtime

In a matchup of two depleted clubs, the Los Angeles Clippers needed a boost to survive at home. Rick Brunson was happy to provide that boost.

After losing a big second-half lead, the Clippers got 11 points from Brunson in overtime and 30 overall from Bobby Simmons to snap a five-game losing streak with a 100-91 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

"The overtime was big for me because I thought I'd cost us the win with that turnover at the end of the game," said Brunson, who threw the ball away on Los Angeles' last possession in regulation.

"I thought I did a terrible job of getting us into good offensive sets towards the end of the game. It meant a lot to redeem myself."

Playing without leading scorer Corey Maggette (left groin) and point guard Marko Jaric (sprained foot), the Clippers lost fill-in starter Quinton Ross to a hip pointer early and could not shake the equally thin Hornets, despite taking a 24-9 lead after one quarter.

Los Angeles lost a 21-point second-half lead and were forced to play overtime when New Orleans forward P.J. Brown hit three jumpers in the final 2:23 of regulation, including a 19-footer with four seconds left to tie the game at 81-81.

Brunson set the tone just 43 seconds into the extra session with a long 3-pointer to give the Clippers the lead for good. After Elton Brand and Simmons both had a basket to stretch Los Angeles' lead to 88-83, Brunson put away the game with back-to-back 3-pointers and a pair of free throws in the next 1:13.

"Brunson really stepped up," Brand said. "We knew he could. That's why our coach went with him to start."

Brunson notched season highs with 18 points and 10 assists in his first start with the Clippers. Brand added 23 and 13 rebounds as Los Angeles earned its first win since December 6 vs. Charlotte, a 99-93 triumph.

Lionel Chalmers, a rookie who had not played more than 13 minutes this season, played 44 on Tuesday, setting highs with eight points and six assists.

"We're just happy with win," Brand added. "We'll get to the films and see what happened. We shouldn't be up 21 and get into overtime. We didn't execute defensively or offensively. That's what happened. We let (Hornets guard David Wesley) get hot on us and it hurt us. We didn't have the same effort and intensity that we've had in a close ball game."

Despite taking the large lead early, Los Angeles was unable to shake New Orleans, which had five of its own players on the injured list and was without guard Junior Harrington in the second half because of a right knee bruise.

"We have kind of gotten over the series of injuries we've had because it's been going on so long," Hornets forward P.J. Brown said. "The guys that are here know we just have to play much harder than we played tonight."

Wesley scored 10 straight points for the Hornets and 12 total during a 19-3 run to close the third quarter. Dan Dickau's 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left capped the surge and cut the deficit to 65-62.

"I just got into a rhythm at the right time," Wesley said. "I had good opportunities from running the floor. I was really being aggressive taking some shots that normally I wouldn't take in this offense. At that point we were just being aggressive and trying to find out how to get back in this game."

Wesley scored 22 points, Lee Nailon added 21 and Chris Andersen had a career-high 18 rebounds in his first start for New Orleans.

"We haven't had a whole lot of success in overtime games," Wesley said. "It was disappointing to come back that far and not win."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Clippers Knocked by Jazz

A team-leading 28-point effort from Corey Maggette wasn't quite enough as the Clippers lost a seesaw battle, 93-91 to the Jazz on Tuesday. A dunk by Mikki Moore with seconds remaining brought the Clippers within a point, but the Jazz sealed the victory from the charity stripe. Elton Brand went 11-of-12 from the free throw line on his way to a 19-point effort, while Marko Jaric added 18 points and a team-best 6 assists. Los Angeles travels to Minnesota on Friday before heading home to STAPLES Center.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Clipper drop Bobcats in Double OT

The Los Angeles Clippers started taking the expansion Bobcats seriously just in time to eke out a victory.

Corey Maggette scored four of his 33 points in the second overtime and the Clippers survived the fourth-quarter ejection of Elton Brand to beat Charlotte 99-93 Monday night.

"We were having a problem finding motivation against those guys," point guard Marko Jaric said. "They played an excellent game. We started out very slow and very, very lazy, and we have to understand that we are not the kind of team that can play that kind of basketball."

It was the first overtime win in four tries this season for the Clippers. After tying his career high with 34 points in Saturday's OT loss to Minnesota, Maggette pulled out this win, going 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the second extra session.

Brand, held to a season-low 10 points Saturday, finished with 19 points to help the Clippers win for the sixth time in seven games. Jaric, who had 10 assists, already has five double-digit assists games -- two more than all of last season.

Jason Kapono and Primoz Brezec each had 14 points for the Bobcats, who played without Gerald Wallace (concussion) and Jahidi White (right shoulder strain). They have won four of their first 15 games, but are 0-7 on the road.

"We've certainly got things in perspective, in terms of where we are and what we've got to do," coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "We've won four games, and the predictions were that we probably wouldn't win any. Everybody comes after us every night because they don't want to lose to us."

Charlotte rookie Emeka Okafor, who averaged 19.5 points and 12.6 rebounds over his previous six games, finished with 12 points and 15 boards.

Mikki Moore got the Clippers started in the second extra period with a dunk with 4:36 remaining. No one else scored until Maggette sank two free throws with 1:30 left for a four-point lead. Kapono hit a 17-footer at the other end, but Chris Kaman responded for the Clippers with a layup that gave them a 95-91 lead with 56 seconds to play.

Okafor made it a two-point game with a pair of free throws, but Simmons followed with a fadeaway 19-footer from the right baseline with 10.4 seconds remaining and Maggette added two free throws.

Moore's layup tied it at 85 with 2:05 left in the first overtime, triggering a 6-0 spurt by the Clippers that ended with two jumpers by Maggette.

But Kapono hit a baseline jumper and Brevin Knight drove coast to coast for the tying layup with 11.4 seconds on the clock after stripping the ball clean from Maggette.

The Bobcats missed nine of their first 10 shots in the fourth quarter and the Clippers ran off eight straight points to turn a five-point deficit into a 71-68 lead with 6:22 left in regulation.

Keith Bogans and Kapono responded with 3-pointers 10 seconds apart, ending Charlotte's scoring drought and giving the Bobcats a 74-71 edge.

On the next possession, Brand took exception to Okafur's defense and responded with an uncharacteristic flagrant foul that earned him two technical fouls and an ejection with 3:28 remaining.

"It was just a push," Brand said. "It was frustration from getting tangled up. I wasn't trying to start a fight or a melee or anything. I was just trying to break away. But the league is definitely cracking down on anything that goes on. I was having a pretty good fourth quarter, so it was very difficult to watch after that."

After Maggette's two free throws with 29 seconds left tied it at 79, both teams blew chances to win it. Knight missed a 13-footer from the lane and Jaric missed a layup as the buzzer sounded.

The Clippers improved to 11-7, including the three overtime losses.

"I'm happy for their success," said Bobcats forward Melvin Ely, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Clippers before being traded to the Bobcats.

"Anything is possible when you're got players like Elton Brand and Corey Maggette," Ely added. "And now they've got Chris Wilcox playing to his potential and Bobby Simmons also playing well. So it's not surprising at all."