YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Clippers Get It Right on Road


TORONTO — Vince Carter made 14 of 30 shots, dropping 31 points on the Clippers on Sunday afternoon at Air Canada Centre. He sank long-range jump shots, scored on drives to the basket and improbable fadeaways while tightly guarded.

The rest of the Toronto Raptors made only 15 of 57 shots.

Game over.

The Clippers couldn't mess it up with those odds. They bent but didn't break, absorbing the best Carter could offer and escaped with a hard-earned 79-72 victory before a muted sellout crowd of 19,800.

The Clippers ended their four-game losing streak, winning for only the third time in 15 road games. Lamar Odom and Michael Olowokandi had 16 points apiece for the Clippers, who also returned to the .500 mark with a 19-19 record.

There would be no repeat of Friday's debacle at Charlotte, when the Clippers squandered an eight-point lead in the final 1:25 of regulation and lost in overtime, 92-91, to the Hornets.

Pride took hold of the Clippers and wouldn't let go Sunday, not even after they fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter. The Clippers unleashed a matchup zone on the Raptors and reaped the rewards with a 12-0 run that took them from a 29-19 deficit to a 31-29 lead.

The Clippers lost the lead several times, the last after Toronto's Alvin Williams made a three-point basket for a 51-50 Raptor lead early in the third. But Eric Piatkowski promptly sank a three-pointer and Olowokandi made a hook shot and the Clippers never trailed again.

When things got tight late, the Clippers remained strong. Earl Boykins made two free throws with 23.9 seconds remaining to give the Clippers a 79-72 lead.

"I have never concentrated that much with my team up five," said Boykins, who made only one of two free throws Friday with the Clippers ahead by two points with 23.3 seconds to play in regulation. "I was concentrating like we were losing. I knew if I made both, we would make it a three-possession game."

As it turned out, the Raptors failed to draw any closer.

"It says a lot about the character of this team," said Elton Brand, who had only 12 points, but took 15 rebounds. "We could have come here and fallen into a funk. I couldn't believe the Charlotte game. I was thinking about it all that night."

Coach Alvin Gentry thought a great deal about Friday's game too. But he revisited a different game than Brand and the other Clipper players. Gentry watched a videotape of the Raptors' overtime victory against the Atlanta Hawks several times.

Gentry noticed that Atlanta rallied against Toronto by playing a matchup zone, keeping Carter on the perimeter and holding him to 16 points. It worked again Sunday, although Carter had better success against the Clippers.

However, Carter's teammates turned into the gang that couldn't shoot straight after building a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter. Among the bricklayers were Antonio Davis, who was five for 13, and Alvin Williams (three for 13). Carter and Davis, who had 10 points, were the only Raptors to score in double figures.

The Clipper reserves outscored the Raptor reserves, 26-7.

"We tried to contest every shot when we went to the matchup zone," Brand said. "If the NBA is going to allow it [the zone defense], we're going to employ it."

Of Carter, Brand said: "Hey, the guy could get 70 as long as we win the game."

Carter had seven of the Raptors' 11 points in the fourth quarter. The Clippers weren't a good deal better, scoring only 12 in the final 12 minutes. But the Clippers had the edge after three quarters, 67-61, and kept their composure down the stretch.

When the Clippers faltered slightly in the third quarter, they went to an unlikely source for offense: Olowokandi.

No one else was scoring, so the Clippers fed the ball to Olowokandi on the low block and he responded with 10 points on five-of-six shooting in the third. He also took three rebounds.

With starting point guard Jeff McInnis ineffective because of a stomach virus, Gentry turned to Boykins to lead the Clippers for extended minutes. Boykins had eight of his 12 points in the first half, but the biggest two came on his late free throws.

"This was a great win, especially after the disaster in Charlotte," Gentry said. "The Charlotte loss was devastating. To bounce back and win any kind of road game is great for us."

Los Angeles Times Articles