Clippers 89, Heat 84
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Fear and embarrassment were the two motivating factors for the Los Angeles Clippers, who trailed by as many as 14 points to a team missing four starters.
Loy Vaught rallied the Clippers from their first-half slumber with 20 points in an 89-84 victory over the Miami Heat Thursday night, ending a nine-game losing streak.
``It feels great to be on the winning side again,″ Vaught said. ``The guys were saying in the huddle, ``C’mon, we can’t let this one get away. This was the one game we should not lose.′
``It might have been ugly, but we got back in it slowly but surely. The bottom line is, we came out winners.″
Kevin Gamble scored 24 points and rookie Kurt Thomas added 19 in his third start for the Heat, who were down to nine healthy players.
The loss was their third in a row and fifth in six games. It also was the 300th coaching defeat for Pat Riley, whose .716 winning percentage is the highest of any active coach in pro sports.
Malik Sealy added 19 points for the Clippers, who overcame center Brian Williams’ sixth foul with three minutes remaining and an ensuing pair of free throws by Keith Askins that capped a 12-4 Miami run and trimmed their lead to 82-79.
Gamble missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Heat a one-point edge. On their next trip downcourt, Bimbo Coles threw the ball right into the hands of Clippers guard Terry Dehere. Charles Outlaw blew the fast-break layup, but Lamond Murray slammed home the rebound for an 84-79 lead with 1:48 remaining.
``When we were going toward the basket, I thought I’d kick it out to Kevin Gamble for a three,″ Coles explained. ``But I don’t think the pass was high enough. They got a deflection and they converted it into two points.″
The Clippers took a 70-62 lead into the fourth quarter, then stretched the margin to 78-68 on Sealy’s jumper with 6:26 left before Gamble responded with eight points in less than two minutes to ignite Miami’s late rally.
``We played hard, but the Clippers are a desperate team and they had to win tonight,″ Riley said. ``You could see they were a little bit tight. We tried to control the tempo as much as possible, but we had a bad spell at the end of the third quarter and started making too many mistakes.″
Los Angeles outscored Miami 30-10 during the final 9 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to turn a 12-point deficit into a 70-62 lead. The Heat failed to make a field goal during the final 4:12 of the period.
``We just stepped up our defense,″ Vaught said. ``Guys were rotated better, which had been kind of lacking early on. And everything carried over for us.″
Alonzo Mourning, who missed his third game with a torn tendon in his left foot and should be out at least another two weeks, headed a list of six Miami players who didn’t dress because of injuries. Kevin Willis sat out with a strained arch in his left foot.
Coles, the only player to start all 20 games for the Heat, finished with 17 points before fouling out in the final minute. He lined up for the opening tip with four teammates who had a combined four starts this season between them: Askins, Gamble, Thomas and LeRon Ellis.
``It was definitely different,″ Coles said. ``When you look inside and you don’t see the big men, it’s a big difference. I don’t know if a team’s been hit with four starters out at the same time like that. But we’ve got some guys who can step up off the bench, but they’ve got to help us get a couple more wins ’till we get our big fellas back.″
Miami’s skeleton lineup still proved to be almost too much competition for the Clippers to handle, despite being given Wednesday off by beleaguered coach Bill Fitch. They committed five turnovers in less than six minutes, fell behind by nine points before the first substitutions were made and by as many as 14 on Thomas’ layup with 2:39 left in the first half.
``A win is a win is a win,″ Vaught said. ``I mean, we’re shorthanded ourselves without Rodney Rogers and Stanley Roberts, and Brent (Barry) got hurt tonight. We got in foul trouble too, and Brian Williams and I had to spend a lot of time on the bench. So everything kind of got equalized.″