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Season Ends With Close Loss

April 18, 2001|Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Clippers hung around but couldn't quite take advantage of the Utah Jazz's struggles at home this season.

Karl Malone scored 34 points and John Stockton had nine of his 12 in the fourth quarter as the Jazz handed the Clippers a season-ending 97-92 loss on Tuesday night.

The victory secured the No. 4 seed and first-round home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs for the Jazz, who will meet the Dallas Mavericks starting this weekend.

The Jazz has struggled at home this season, losing nine of its last 10 in the Delta Center against playoff-bound teams. And this time it was the Clippers taking Utah to the wire, not the Lakers, Sacramento Kings or San Antonio Spurs.

"We had a difficult time with them," Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan said. "I don't think people realize how difficult they are to play. They have so many guys who can put the ball on the floor and beat you off the dribble."

Lamar Odom, held to three points at halftime, finished with 19 but fouled out with 3:10 to play after colliding on defense with Bryon Russell.

"Bryon Russell comes running into me. He did a little acting job and got the foul," Odom said, breaking into a smile. "None of my fouls were on-the-ball, aggressive defensive fouls."

When Odom went to the bench, he took his scoring with him. He also picked up a technical foul for laughing about the call and the Jazz used the sequence to turn an 81-80 deficit into an 82-81 lead.

Jeff McInnis scored to give the Clippers an 87-86 lead with 1:54 left, but Stockton found Danny Manning cutting into the lane and then dished to Russell for a three-pointer to put the Jazz ahead for good.

"I don't know how many times Bryon Russell has stuck a dagger into people from that corner," Clipper center Sean Rooks said.

Utah's 91-87 lead was safe. Eric Piatkowski missed an open three-pointer but collected his own rebound, then put up a runner in the lane. Malone got a finger on it, the Jazz got the rebound and held on in the final minute.

Utah barely avoided finishing the regular season with 14 home losses.

That hasn't happened since 1985-86, when Malone was a rookie and Clipper rookie Darius Miles was 4 1/2. The Clippers haven't won in Salt Lake City since 1989, losing 24 in a row at the Delta Center and the old Salt Palace.

McInnis scored 20 points to lead the Clippers, who had won three in a row.

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