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Clippers Get Off the Floor and Deliver Own Knockout

Pro basketball: Odom helps L.A. rally from a five-point deficit to a 76-72 victory over Grizzlies.

November 17, 2000|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VANCOUVER, Canada — In seasons past, the Clippers would have lost to the Vancouver Grizzlies Thursday night.

With three minutes left in the game and Vancouver ahead by five points, the stage was set for the Clippers to fold and accept another defeat. But instead of falling apart after a technical foul on Lamar Odom and a 7-0 run by the Grizzlies, the Clippers fought back to win their second game in as many nights, a 76-72 victory before 12,210 at General Motors Place.

Heroes? The Clippers had several down the stretch.

Point guard Jeff McInnis, who played 36 minutes despite being slowed by flu, made a clutch three-point basket and steal; swingman Odom, who dominated the game at both ends of the court, sank a key jumper; and veteran power forward Derek Strong, who had his best game as a Clipper, drew a timely offensive foul on Vancouver's Shareef Abdur-Rahim and sank two free throws with 13 seconds left to clinch the victory.

"This is a sign of a club on the rise," McInnis said of the Clippers, who ended a six-game losing streak at Vancouver. "Everything was going against us and we still found a way to win. When times get tough, you have to go out and make plays. That's what we did to help us win the game. This is a big confidence booster for us."

For the second consecutive game, Odom stepped up to lead the Clippers when they needed him most. Against the Grizzlies, Odom finished with a game-high 21 points (on nine-of-16 shooting), six rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.

The Clippers, who did not arrive in Vancouver until 3 a.m. after defeating the New York Knicks at Staples Center on Wednesday, also received strong games from shooting guards Tyrone Nesby and Eric Piatkowski.

The first time the teams faced each other earlier this month at Staples, Vancouver shooting guard Michael Dickerson had a field day against Clipper rookie Darius Miles. Dickerson finished with a game-high 20 points in the Grizzlies' victory, but Thursday it was a different story.

For the fifth consecutive game the Clippers started Nesby at shooting guard, and he put the clamps on Dickerson from the opening tip. Instead of worrying about his offense, Nesby--who finished with only two points--got defensive and he, along with Piatkowksi, limited Dickerson to 16 points.

The Clippers opened the first quarter the way they finished their victory over the Knicks. With Michael Olowokandi dominating Vancouver's big men inside, the Clippers jumped to an early six-point lead, but as they have done all season allowed the opponent to get back in the game.

The Grizzlies tied the score by the end of the first quarter and led 32-29 when the Clippers got serious again. Strong, who was called on early when starting power forward Brian Skinner left the game after three minutes because of an ankle injury, teamed with Olowokandi to lead a 13-0 run. Strong and Olowokandi each had six points in the rally and then Odom helped the Clippers finish the quarter strong as they took a 47-38 halftime lead.

Odom, who made his first six field-goal attempts, continued to dominate play in the second half. If he wasn't beating Abdur-Rahim off the dribble, Odom was down low scoring a rebound basket or knocking down open perimeter shots.

Vancouver finally started sending double and triple teams at Odom and the tactic paid off. The Grizzlies had the upper hand late in the third quarter and opened up a 72-67 lead with 3:06 left in the game.

Things didn't look good for the Clippers. Odom picked up his third technical foul of the season, for disputing a foul called on him, and the Clippers looked lost on offense. Coach Alvin Gentry called a timeout and his team got the message.

"I told them there was no reason in the world to panic," Gentry said. "There was still a lot of time and we were coming up with defensive stops. We just had to find a way to get a basket and then Jeff made the big [three-pointer]."

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