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CLIPPERS GET RARE VICTORY L.A. ENDS SKID VS. MEMPHIS CLIPPERS 102, MEMPHIS 100.

Byline: Joe Stevens Staff Writer

The Clippers missed 11 free throws. They gave the Memphis Grizzlies two wide-open shots to win in the final seconds.

But unlike 20 other games in which the Clippers lost fourth-quarter leads, they held on this time. As with most Clippers victories and losses, it wasn't pretty, but at least the Clippers snapped a losing streak at four games with a 102-100 victory over the Grizzlies in front of 16,225 at Staples Center on Sunday night.

``It was a different type of game,'' Clippers interim coach Dennis Johnson said. ``It was a tight game, and it shouldn't have been. But don't get me wrong. I am as happy as anybody. I'm glad the guys pulled it out, and I thanked them for it.''

The Clippers, now 4-16 in their past 20 games, hadn't won since March 19. Worse, those four victories came against against teams far out of playoff contention - the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and now the Grizzlies.

Smiles returned to the Clippers' dressing room after the victory but moments earlier, they watched a 99-92 lead with 1:15 left evaporate in 26 seconds.

Memphis' Pau Gasol made a 3-point play. Marko Jaric had a turnover, and then Mike Miller made a 3-point shot to pull the Grizzlies to 99-98 with 49.8 seconds to go. Those plays were inopportune, but it was Gasol's 3-point play with a foul by Melvin Ely that baffled Johnson.

``Gasol will turn, fake and go right, then he'll turn, fake and go right,'' Johnson said. ``And then after that, he turns, fakes and goes right. He did that all game, and then he did it again. I just didn't understand why we couldn't catch on.''

Lamar Odom made a hook shot with 41.1 seconds left to give the Clippers a 101-98 lead. But even making the basket, which came just a few seconds into the shot clock, didn't exactly go according to plans.

``I was saying `Use the clock! Use the clock!'' Johnson said. ``Then he shot and made it.''

Gasol answered with his own hook shot to pull the Grizzlies to 101-100 with 34.3 seconds left.

After Sean Rooks missed a jump shot, the Grizzlies collected the rebound, and Miller got an open 3-pointer off a fastbreak with :02 left, but missed. And after Jaric made 1 of 2 free throws, Wesley Person missed another open 3-pointer at the buzzer.

``You can't get a better shot than that,'' Memphis coach Hubie Brown said of Miller's shot. ``The ball went right in the basket and came out. When it came down to the last two shots that we needed, we got two good shots. That was exactly what we wanted to do.''

Miller ended up with a game-high 29 points, and Gasol had 19 points and 12 rebounds.

For the Clippers, Corey Maggette had 18 points and nine rebounds. But it was the reserves that keyed the victory as they outscored the starters 52-50.

Rookies Chris Wilcox and Ely look to be making strides as the season winds down. Wilcox scored 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting, and Ely added 11 points and six rebounds.

``I think I'm now getting accustomed to the NBA game,'' Wilcox said. ``And I'm filling out more. The physical part of my game is getting better.''

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 31, 2003
Words:565
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