Historic Defensive Effort Carries Clippers
L.A. Clippers 89, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 67
LOS ANGELES, March 1 (Ticker) -- When the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets look back at the improvement they have made this season, they probably won't examine the second half of Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Hornets were held to an NBA record-low 16 points in the second half as a 10-point third-quarter lead turned into an 89-67 loss to the Clippers.
A season after posting a franchise-worst 18-64 mark, the Hornets have been praised for their dramatic turnaround made even more remarkable by their temporary move to Oklahoma City.
Coming into the finale of a four-game road trip, the Hornets (31-26) were just two games behind the Clippers for the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
The Hornets shot 22-of-40 (55 percent) from the field in the first half en route to a 51-47 lead and held a 59-49 advantage after Desmond Mason's layup with 8:03 left in the third period.
"I don't understand it myself," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "That's what happens when you have a bunch of young guys. We played a good first half but it is just inexperience that causes losses like this."
"In the first half I wasn't pleased with our defense," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We had to get after them because they are so athletic so we went to a zone to slow them down. I thought our guys did a great job in the zone. They rotated and boxed our very well."
But they went scoreless for the next 12:41 as the Clippers reeled off the next 25 points.
"They went to a zone and we couldn't knock shots down," Mason said. "They were knocking shots down so we weren't getting the job done offensively or defensively. We've been playing better basketball all year. We couldn't even get transition baskets which is something we always do."
"Coach (Mike Dunleavy) did a great job putting in that zone defense," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "We contested all their shots and kept (Hornets rookie guard) Chris Paul out from penetrating us. He is a great young player and that zone really stiffled him. We got the blocked shots or rebounds and we were out running."
Mason, who scored 20 points, ended the scoring drought with a free thow with 7:22 remaining. The stretch of 21 straight misses from the floor did not end until Mason's dunk at the 5:43 mark, making it 79-64.
The Hornets finished by missing their last three shots and committing five turnovers. In the second half, they were 5-of-34 with nine turnovers, compiling a pair of eight-point quarters.
"We missed (21) straight shots," Paul said. "You can't win games if you go through stretches like that. I don't know what the cause of it was. We had a lot of open shots but they just wouldn't go in. I guess that is how it is sometimes in the NBA. We just couldn't hit a thing. We were even going to the free-throw line and missed shots from there."
Ironically, the previous record for lowest-scoring half in the shot-clock era (since 1954) was set by the Clippers vs. the Los Angeles Lakers on December 14, 1999 and matched by Miami at Orlando on March 26, 2000.
Cuttino Mobley scored eight of his 14 points and MVP candidate Brand added six of his 25 during the 25-0 charge for the Clippers, who have won three in a row following a season-high five-game slide.