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CLIPPER REPORT

Momentum Is Lost to Bad Turn of Events

December 16, 2004|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — A week ago, the Clippers had visions of taking a 14-7 record into Friday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a mid-December mark that would have been unprecedented in Donald T. Sterling's stewardship.

Instead, they lost by two points to the Lakers, squandered a 12-point lead in the last 5 1/2 minutes of a double-overtime loss to the Boston Celtics and lost again by two points Tuesday night, to the Utah Jazz.

Flying into Minneapolis on Wednesday, they brought an 11-10 record and were no longer among the top eight teams in the Western Conference.

"Our play has been good, but we're just [within] a fine line of really doing it and really creating momentum and confidence for ourselves," Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We could be in an incredibly great position right now, but we just had some breaks go against us. Every one of those [four] games we lost in overtime we had free throws that would have enhanced our opportunity to win....

"But those things happen. It's a fine line, a fragile line between tremendous confidence and at times just not being sure."

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Corey Maggette has averaged 29.5 points in six games this month, scoring 34, 33, 27, 38 and 28 in the last five, to increase his average from 18.5 points at the end of November to 22.0, 11th-best in the NBA before Wednesday's games.

One reason for the increased output has been Maggette's ability to get to the foul line. He has averaged 12.8 free throws made and 14.5 attempted this month, compared to his November averages of 5.9 and 7.2.

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Kerry Kittles, still working himself back into shape after being sidelined most of the season's first five weeks because of a sore right knee, played only 10 minutes Tuesday, none in the second half, after playing 38 on Monday. "I just felt like, there's no sense pushing the envelope; I probably shouldn't do it," Dunleavy said. "He probably could have helped us, but I didn't want to take any chances." ... The Clippers did not practice, Dunleavy instead taking them bowling.

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