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First Victory of the Season a Group Effort for Clippers

Pro basketball: Led by Odom, 11 players score in 77-74 win over Rockets.

November 05, 2000|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fans booed him during player introductions and they booed him every time he touched the ball.

The occasion? The return Saturday night of former Clipper Maurice Taylor to Staples Center in a Houston Rockets uniform.

But unfortunately for Taylor and his new teammates, the night belonged to the Clippers as they defeated the Rockets, 77-74, in front of 10,797 for their first victory of the season.

Reserve shooting guard Eric Piatkowski scored 10 points and made a key three-point basket with 20.9 seconds to play for the Clippers, who scored the first 15 points of the fourth quarter and then held on in the final minutes.

The Clippers, who made only 12 of 27 free throws, won the game with defense as they limited the league's highest-scoring team to 34.5% shooting.

"The biggest thing is that we got a W and that's the first one for me as a Clipper," said rookie point guard Keyon Dooling, who had seven points and helped do a good job defending Houston's high-scoring guards, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley.

"We played solid defense . . . but it's almost impossible to stop Cuttino and Stevie one on one. So, it was definitely a team effort."

For Taylor, it was a disappointing homecoming as he battled foul trouble all game and finished with only seven points on three-of-11 shooting.

"A lot of people are making this out to be something but the Clippers are just another NBA team," Taylor said. "I'm not the only guy who left the Clippers. If people wanted to do a story on everyone who left, you would be here all day. I wanted to beat them like I want to beat any team."

Swingman Lamar Odom led the Clippers with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. But it was truly a group effort as 11 players scored for the Clippers, among them four in double figures.

Houston guard Shandon Anderson had his offensive game going early as he took advantage of Clipper rookie Darius Miles, who is still adjusting to defending swingmen at the NBA level.

"Getting back on defense and how fast the game is," Miles said of his biggest challenge in making the jump straight to the NBA from high school.

"You don't find too many small forwards or shooting guards in this league who can't shoot. That makes it kind of hard for me to block as many shots as I usually do."

After Anderson was able to shake free for a couple of open jumpers, Coach Alvin Gentry replaced Miles with Corey Maggette, who had better success defensively but picked up two quick fouls.

Although Miles had his difficulties defending Anderson, Gentry said the rookie will get better with experience.

"He's been typical for any 19-year-old kid coming into the NBA," Gentry said. "He's had his bright moments and he's had moments when he has struggled. . . . The change in defenses is the biggest thing that he has to conquer. . . . It is pretty hard for him to go from guarding centers and big men in high school to defending a two-guard out on the floor in this league."

In the second quarter, the Clippers received a huge lift from rookie Quentin Richardson, who stepped up to score seven points in the quarter after getting limited playing time in the Clippers' first two games.

Thanks to Jeff McInnis, who had 10 first-half points, and Richardson, the Clippers trailed by only a point at halftime despite making only three of 10 free throws.

After halftime, Odom came out looking to score. Odom was unstoppable as he penetrated at will against the Rockets' half-court defense. He scored six consecutive points in the third quarter to put the Clippers ahead, 53-47, but then they got sloppy and Houston rallied with Francis scoring 10 points in the quarter to take a 59-55 lead into the fourth.

With a lineup of Derek Strong, Odom, Piatkowski, Richardson and Dooling on the floor, the Clippers jumped all over Houston to start the final quarter. They scored 15 unanswered points before the Rockets came back again. After leading by as many as 11 points early in the quarter, the Clippers found themselves ahead by only 73-71 with less than a minute to play.

But the Clippers were able to pull out the victory when Odom drove to the basket and passed to an open Piatkowski on the left wing.

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