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Clippers Are Down 0-2 to Jazz but Not Conceding Anything

NBA PLAYOFFS

Pro basketball: Martin, who had 38 points in victory over Utah in December, says series will soon be 2-2.

April 28, 1997|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers may have lost the first two games of their best-of-five first round NBA playoff series to the Utah Jazz, but they haven't lost their confidence.

"It isn't time to get out the golf clubs yet," Clipper guard Brent Barry said after practice Sunday.

A loss away from elimination, the Clippers play host to the Jazz in Game 3 tonight at 7:30 at the Sports Arena.

"We're down two games, but we've got two games at home, then it'll be 2-2," said Clipper guard Darrick Martin, who scored a career-high 38 points in a 14-point victory over the Jazz on Dec. 30 at the Sports Arena. "It's very difficult to win against this team, which will make it that much sweeter when we win."

The Clippers, who ended the regular season with three consecutive losses after clinching their first playoff berth in four years, are close to starting their summer vacation.

Clipper Coach Bill Fitch turned his back to the wall and quipped: "Maybe I should let you guys talk to me like this.

"I've been down 3-1 in the [NBA playoffs] and won it. It's not impossible. Miracles happen. Miracles in sports are usually created by hard work.

"They got to hold serve and now we've got to spin a few aces by them. I told the guys I hope they've got a few new best friends [in Salt Lake City] or they've got people over there that owe them money or they've got a restaurant they haven't eaten in yet, so they have an extra incentive to be back there next week."

The Clippers, who have to win three consecutive games against the Jazz, which had the second-best record in the NBA this season, won't return to Salt Lake City unless they can check Karl Malone, who had 39 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday night's 105-99 win over the Clippers in Game 2.

The NBA's second-leading scorer, Malone has averaged 29.5 points in the first two games of the series.

Forward Loy Vaught, assigned to check Malone, fouled out with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter of Game 2.

"You've got guys who are supposed to be guarding him sitting over there guarding me," Fitch said. "You're not going to stop him, but he had a good night shooting against some people he shouldn't have.

"We can't double him more than we're doing and we can put three or four guys on him or these other guys would go crazy. That's the price you pay for his greatness. [The Jazz fans] aren't hollering MVP for anybody other than him."

Fitch took no consolation in the fact that the Jazz has never swept a series in 24 playoff appearances, saying, "the Jazz has never been this good either. No matter how you look at it, the only thing that counts is one game. We've already had our history lesson, but history is over."

Jazz reserve forward Antoine Carr said Utah wants to end the series tonight.

"We don't want to let these guys hang around," Carr said. "They're a very good team. They keep trying to hang around with us when we're trying to put them away. We want to get this over with as quick as possible."

After losing the series opener by 20 points, the Clippers demonstrated that they can play with the Jazz, overcoming a 16-point halftime deficit in the third quarter to take a two-point lead in Game 2.

But the Clippers, who shot 34.8% in the fourth quarter, collapsed in the final seven minutes.

Trailing, 88-85, after Lamond Murray made a three-point shot with 7:10 remaining, the Clippers missed six of their next eight shots and were outscored, 11-4.

"It's nice to be that close, but it's playoff time and it isn't really time to learn," said Barry, who had 10 of his 13 points in the second half. "[The comeback] gave us a little feel for what playoff games are like. When you get that close, the intensity level picks up."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NBA PLAYOFFS

Clippers vs. Jazz

Jazz leads series 2-0

* Game 1: Utah 106, Clippers 86

* Game 2: Utah 105, Clippers 99

* Game 3: Tonight, Sports Arena, 7:30

* Game 4: Wed., Sports Arena, TBA*

* Game 5: Sunday at Utah, TBA*

* if necessary

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