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CLIPPER REPORT

Answers Don't Come Easily

April 01, 2002|Elliott Teaford

The Clippers have lost four of their last five games and, although it's difficult to figure out precisely what's wrong, they do realize they haven't been at their best recently. Have they simply run out of gas?

"We haven't been in sync the last couple of games," Jeff McInnis said after the Clippers' 105-92 loss Saturday to the Utah Jazz.

Even in their lone victory during this stretch the Clippers had to rally from an 18-point deficit in the second quarter Friday to defeat the Phoenix Suns on McInnis' jump shot at the buzzer.

"It should be good pressure," Coach Alvin Gentry said of playing meaningful games late in the season. "I don't know if our guys sense the pressure or the urgency. I think they understand how we have to approach these games, though."

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The Clippers desperately needed victories Saturday and Wednesday against the Jazz to narrow the gap in the fight for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Clippers are 41/2 games behind the Jazz with eight games to play.

Meanwhile, Utah is looking ahead.

"We're still trying to catch Seattle and we have a long, hard, uphill struggle to do that," Utah guard John Stockton said of chasing the seventh-place SuperSonics. "So that's been my focus, looking at who we can catch, rather than looking behind at who's chasing us."

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One of the keys to Utah's victory Saturday was that when McInnis and Stockton each picked up his fifth foul in the fourth quarter, McInnis went to the bench and Stockton stayed on the floor.

McInnis would return, only to foul out with 1:24 to play. Stockton never came close to drawing his sixth foul. He scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.

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