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Clippers let third-quarter lead evaporate

They blow a 10-point advantage in the period and lose to Utah, 109-99.

February 10, 2010|By Ben Bolch
  • Baron Davis tries to get past Jazz guard Deron Williams during the Clippers' 109-99 loss Tuesday night.
Baron Davis tries to get past Jazz guard Deron Williams during the Clippers'…

It was Take 2 of the Kim Hughes era, a chance to rectify what went wrong in his debut as the Clippers' interim coach.

The Clippers reined in their offense and somewhat tightened their defense, but they still need to work on fashioning a Hollywood ending.

A 10-point third-quarter lead fizzled during a 109-99 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Staples Center, indicating that more tweaking may be required under Mike Dunleavy's successor.

Clippers center Chris Kaman tossed a copy of the box score to the locker-room floor in disgust after a fourth quarter in which the Clippers shot only 33.3% and turned the ball over five times on the way to being outscored 29-15.

"They went on a little run there and we couldn't match it," said Kaman, who scored a team-high 19 points but made only five of 14 shots. "We turned the ball over way too much and made it too easy for them off turnovers."

It was an exasperating final few minutes for the Clippers, with Baron Davis missing a layup that could have drawn his team to within four points and forward Carlos Boozer responding with a dunk that extended the Jazz's lead to eight points. Boozer finished with 34 points on 13-for-17 shooting to help the Jazz extend its winning streak to nine games.

The first three quarters were more promising for the Clippers.

After his team's running game more closely resembled run and flub than run and fun in a 21-turnover effort against San Antonio, Hughes promised to modify the attack. He said his team would use roughly 60% structured plays, with the balance coming on running plays.

The formula seemed to work against the Jazz -- for a while.

The Clippers ran when they could but usually didn't force things. They opened a 10-point lead early in the third quarter on jumpers by Eric Gordon and Kaman, followed by a three-point basket by Rasual Butler.

That's when Boozer, who had missed the last three games because of a strained right calf, started making repeated forays to the basket. Reserve guard Ronnie Price made two three-point baskets and then had two steals that led to three-point plays by his teammates.

When guard Wesley Matthews made a layup and a free throw after drawing Davis' fifth foul on the play, the Jazz had a 98-89 lead and the Clippers were headed to their seventh loss in eight games.

"We started being carefree with the ball instead of being structured and running our plays," forward Craig Smith said. "We just let it go."

Hughes said he was "really happy" with his team's grasp of its offense but lamented that the Clippers wore down in the fourth quarter and finished with 16 turnovers.

The Clippers' final game before the All-Star game break comes Wednesday against the 13-win Golden State Warriors. But what might seem like a breather is actually a worrisome proposition for the Clippers, considering they recently dropped consecutive games against New Jersey and Minnesota, teams with the worst records in the NBA.

Etc.

Is Dunleavy a better general manager now that he doesn't have to worry about coaching the Clippers?

"Any time you can put more time into something versus less time, it tends to be a positive," Dunleavy said this week.

The biggest upside, Dunleavy said, is that he will have more opportunities to scout college players in games and practices.

"Clearly, it helps to not make mistakes," he said. "You can learn stuff about a guy, particularly in a practice, about how hard does he play and his attitude and work ethic."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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