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Little Things Big for Clippers

Simmons gets inspired by his technical foul and backup center Rebraca gets some significant playing time in a 101-90 victory over Utah.

December 30, 2004|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

It doesn't always take a big shot, a big rebound or a big steal to win a game. Sometimes what seems insignificant can prove to have the greatest impact. Sometimes, the sound of silence from a referee's whistle can reverberate through a game.

And sometimes a seldom-used star can emerge from the shadows at just the right time.

So it was Wednesday night at Staples Center, where the Clippers defeated the Utah Jazz, 101-90, in front of 17,481.

The Clippers had lost seven of eight to fall to 12-14. They were coming off their two lowest point totals of the season and their worst shooting game of the year. There was a sense that yet another Clipper season was slipping away.

And with three minutes to play in the first half Wednesday night, the Clippers trailed the Jazz by five.

Then it all turned around on the most unlikely of circumstances. Utah forward Matt Harpring, driving down the baseline, slid to the floor under the basket after replays clearly showed he had traveled. The Clippers' Bobby Simmons, taking no chances, leaned over the fallen Harpring and placed his hands on the ball, hoping for, at the very least, a jump. When Utah's Kirk Snyder reached in and tried to take the ball away from Simmons, the Clipper forward responded by throwing Snyder to the floor.

When order was restored, the officials ruled Harpring had not traveled, and Snyder had not acted improperly, but slapped Simmons with a technical.

Although Utah's Carlos Arroyo missed the free throw, Utah still got two points out of the referee's ruling when Carlos Boozer, on the subsequent possession, connected on a 16-foot jumper.

But while the Jazz got the best of that situation, it was the Clippers who seemed to get fired up.

With just under 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the half, they closed out with a 12-2 run, climaxed fittingly enough by an 18-foot jumper from Simmons, who had started the whole chain of events.

The Clippers had a 49-46 lead -- and never trailed again.

"I think they tried to test our team," Simmons said. "If we didn't match their intensity, they would have won the game."

Simmons finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.

"He's one guy," Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy said, "that if you can get him some clean looks, you can be pretty sure the ball is going into the hole."

Elton Brand led the Clippers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Corey Maggette added 22 points on a night when the Clippers shot 48.6% from the floor and held Utah, third in the league in field-goal percentage, to 43.6%. Boozer's 23 led the Jazz.

During the halftime intermission, Dunleavy went to center Zeljko Rebraca, who had spent the first 24 minutes in his usual spot on the bench, and told the 7-footer to be ready. He might be getting some significant playing time. That was welcome news to Rebraca, who had played a total of 14 minutes in his previous four games.

When Chris Kaman picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, Rebraca got the call, got his significant playing time and made a significant contribution. He played 19 minutes, scored 10 points, got two rebounds and blocked two shots.

"He gave us a great life," Dunleavy said. "We weren't getting the job done on the boards."

As happy as Dunleavy was with the other aspects of his team's performance, he was particularly delighted with the column listing steals by the opposition.

Turnovers have been a big problem for the Clippers, but Wednesday night, there were no steals by the opposition, the first time that has happened in franchise history. And that was significant.

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