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CLIPPER REPORT

Vibes Are Suddenly Positive

January 23, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY — The Clippers reached the midway point of their season Wednesday with something more than dread to look forward to in the second half of it.

They defeated the Utah Jazz to improve to 16-25, not where they expected to be. But suddenly and quite remarkably, there are signs of better times for the Clippers.

"Our ultimate goal is still to make the playoffs," Coach Alvin Gentry said after the Clippers' fourth victory in 13 games. "Before we think about the playoffs, we've got to think about passing Golden State."

The Clippers remain in last place in the Pacific Division.

Gentry isn't big on rehashing recent results, but he could look back Wednesday and see a pattern of excellence forming. After all, the Clippers took the three-time NBA champion Lakers to the final minutes Monday before falling. They knocked off the Pacific Division-leading Sacramento Kings on Saturday.

Of course, the Clippers need only look at last week's 31-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves to recall how it all can go wrong for them.

"I hope we can build from this and start to play with consistency," Gentry said.

The Clippers have looked much better in the last three games.

"Any win could be a turning point," swingman Corey Maggette said. "We need wins, period. When we play hard, we get wins. When we don't freelance and go on our own, we win."

*

The Clippers were 20-21 last season at the midway point en route to a 39-43 mark, their best finish in a decade. They were 13-28 in 2000-01, finishing 31-51 in Gentry's first season as coach.

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