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Clippers Hit Pity Limits

A 106-92 loss in New Jersey is new low of sorts, leaving them 1-4 and causing Scott to feel sorry for them.

November 09, 2002|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They are battered and bruised, losers of four of their first five games after a 106-92 defeat Friday against the New Jersey Nets, and now this?

Sympathy for the Clippers? From a former Clipper draftee?

It was true.

Net Coach Byron Scott, a 1983 first-round pick by the Clippers, feels Coach Alvin Gentry's pain.

"All these guys are playing for a contract, which makes it tough on Alvin," Scott said, cutting to the crux of a situation that could have easily been solved by management during the off-season.

Eight Clippers will be free agents at season's end. "[Eight] guys who want to get paid what they're worth," Scott said. "That is one of those things you worry about. How do you keep those guys playing together? That would be tough to handle."

Gentry also has wondered aloud what a poor start would do to the fragile state of mind of his youthful, skillful but anxious team.

Now that it's here, now that the Clippers (1-4) are struggling to win games, what can Gentry do but hope better days are ahead?

The fact is that the Clippers might have lost to the Eastern Conference champion Nets under the best of circumstances, as they did twice last season. The Nets have won five of six to start the season and clicked at everything they attempted in the second half against the Clippers.

Most of all, the Nets had point guard Jason Kidd playing at peak efficiency. Kidd scored 35 points -- 27 in the second half, including 15 in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers trailed by only 83-82 four minutes into the fourth quarter when Kidd and the Nets seized control. Richard Jefferson made a jump shot. Kidd made a free throw, then a jump shot, then another, then one more. Soon enough, the Nets were off and rolling on an 18-6 run that put the game out of reach.

"We came out a little flat," Kidd said. "We needed energy. I felt that in the second half, I had to come out and push it. I felt if we got some steals, some stops, then our defense would spark our offense. We have to figure out a way to play hard for 48 minutes. We can't rely on one guy going big."

Meanwhile, the Clippers must figure out a way to better handle the ball. They committed 23 turnovers, which led to 29 points for New Jersey. They had 23 turnovers that led to 28 Philadelphia points during a 101-99 overtime loss to the 76ers on Wednesday.

"When you turn the ball over more than 20 times, you're not going to beat a bad team, let alone a good one," Gentry said. "We're our own worst enemy right now. Until we take care of the basketball we're not going to win, especially on the road."

A better grasp of the ball would have helped to slow Kidd, who made 12 of 20 shots and all 11 free throws he attempted. He also had seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals in 42 minutes. Kidd's 35-point game was his best since joining the Nets in a trade from the Phoenix Suns on July 18, 2001.

The Clippers did many things right Friday. Stopping Kidd was not one of them. He rose to the challenge of facing Clipper point guard Andre Miller, who scored 20 points on eight-for-17 shooting in 37 minutes.

Despite the turnovers, the Clippers managed to capitalize on energetic play to take a 56-47 lead after Keyon Dooling made two free throws 24.3 seconds before halftime. They led, 66-58, after Miller made a jumper and a free throw with 5:54 left in the third quarter.

And they trailed, 83-82, before Kidd went to work and the Clippers, in the words of Miller, "lost our composure and lost the game."

Forward Elton Brand had 20 points and 11 rebounds and center Michael Olowokandi had 18 points and 11 rebounds. But for some reason, the Clippers tried to win down the stretch from the outside instead of continuing to drop the ball down low to Brand and Olowokandi.

"We look good sometimes, then we look bad," Miller said, referring to the Clippers' poor execution during a fourth quarter in which they were outscored, 29-14. "We don't have room for error."

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