SALT LAKE CITY — Clipper Coach Bill Fitch walked to the chalkboard before his team met the Utah Jazz in the second game of their best-of-five NBA first-round playoff series and wrote: "It's always too soon to quit."
The Clippers, who lost the first game by 20 points, didn't quit.
Trailing by 16 points at halftime, they outscored the Jazz, 30-12, in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to take a 75-73 lead.
But all-star forward Karl Malone scored 39 points as the Jazz held off the Clippers, 105-99, Saturday night before 19,911 at the Delta Center to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Malone says the Clippers, who have the worst record of any NBA playoff team, haven't been embarrassed by the Jazz.
"Everybody thinks the Clippers were going to come in here and we were just going to kill them every time," Malone said. "But these guys have something to prove. Everybody is walking around with their head down like we lost the game. Everybody wants to dissect the Jazz and say what's wrong with us. We're up, 2-0.
"I don't know what you guys [the media] are looking for. Maybe you're looking for blowouts. These are the playoffs and every game is going to be tough. They practiced twice a day leading up to this. They know everything we're going to do."
The Clippers must win three consecutive games to avoid elimination, but Fitch, who coached the Boston Celtics to the 1981 NBA title, is confident.
"I'm wearing a ring now and I was down three games to one [in the 1981 finals]," Fitch said, twirling his Celtic championship ring. "All we have to do is win three games to get to the next round. Nothing is impossible and I don't want our players to think that it is."
Clipper guard Brent Barry, who had 13 points, including 10 in the second half, agreed.
"This was a game we felt we could have won," Barry said. "Being close just doesn't cut it at this point. If we're close the next game, we'll be close to vacation."
Forward Lamond Murray, who made a three-point shot with 7:10 remaining in the fourth quarter to cut Utah's lead to 88-85, said the Clippers lost control in the final quarter, when they shot 34.8%.
John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek made three-point shots as the Jazz outscored the Clippers, 11-4, during a four-minute, fourth-quarter spurt to take control.
"We felt like we had control of the game for a while, but we couldn't buy a basket in the fourth quarter for a minute there," said Murray, who had 15 points in 24 minutes. "It's very frustrating because we were right there. We played them all the way to the end and we couldn't pull it out.
"We've got confidence we can play with this team. They're the No. 1 seed and we're No. 8, but we both deserve to be here."
The Clippers might have played a better fourth quarter if forward Loy Vaught hadn't fouled out with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Vaught, the Clippers' leading scorer and rebounder, had only five points and nine rebounds.
"I didn't have the kind of game I wanted to have tonight," Vaught said. "They weren't calling my plays offensively, so I thought I'd try to get a lot of rebounds. But I thought even when I fouled out the guys looked good out there. They played well and put us in a position to win.
"Until I got into foul trouble I thought we had Malone contained, but when I got into foul trouble I had to play a different style. It's rough out there."
Fitch also rested Barry, who had eight points in the third quarter, for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We really didn't get off to a good start in the fourth, we seemed to have those lulls," Barry said. "It's like a dagger for us because it's so tough to climb back."
Malone made 12 of 25 shots, 15 of 19 free throws and had 11 rebounds. But he wasn't pleased.
"I guess you have to know me," Malone said. "I expect a lot and I'm really not flowing. . . .
"This is the time of year where everything should be clicking."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
CLIPPERS vs. JAZZ
Jazz leads series 2-0
* Game 1: Utah 106, Clippers 86
* Game 2: Utah 105, Clippers 99
* Game 3: Mon., Sports Arena, 7:30
* Game 4: Wed., Sports Arena, TBA*
* Game 5: May 4 at Utah, TBA*
* if necessary
COOL HEADS PREVAIL
There were no confrontations between Clipper swingman Bo Outlaw and Karl Malone in Game 2. C10
* Houston 96, Minnesota 84
* New York 100, Charlotte 93
* ROUNDUP, C10