7:30 PM ET, March 23, 2005
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- While no lead seems safe, the Los Angeles Clippers are becoming more adept at holding onto an advantage when it matters most.
Corey Maggette scored 34 points and sent Milwaukee to its their seventh straight road loss with a 116-108 victory on Wednesday night -- but not before the stubborn Bucks nearly erased a 26-point deficit.
"Our guys have always been competitive," Milwaukee coach Terry Porter said. "Every game this year when we've gotten down, we've continued to fight. And tonight was really no different.
"But there was just too much energy wasted to get back in it, and we didn't get the two or three possessions that we really needed to get back over the hump."
Elton Brand had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers. He scored a season-high 31 points against the Bucks on Feb. 4 in a two-point loss at Milwaukee, triggering an eight-game losing streak that torpedoed the Clippers' playoff aspirations.
The Bucks, who fell behind 46-20 with 8:51 left in the second quarter, got as close as 104-98 with a 15-4 run led by Anthony Goldwire and Zaza Pachulia.
"We did many things well to get a big lead, but then we did many things poorly to lose it. But even when it got down to eight, we were still confident," Brand said.
Goldwire, starting his second straight game at point guard while Mo Williams nursed a bruised left knee, helped fuel the rally with seven of his 13 points. Redd made three free throws after getting fouled by Quinton Ross on a 3-point shot, and Pachulia's tip-in made it a six-point game with 2:52 left.
"You are never out of it until it is over," Bucks forward Michael Redd said. "We have seen games that are never over in the NBA too many times."
Maggette helped seal the win with a layup and a 3-pointer, and Brand hit a 14-footer that restored the Clippers' double-digit lead with 1:04 left.
Redd scored 31 points for the Bucks, who have lost six of eight overall. They are 0-13 on the road against Western Conference teams this season and 2-25 over two seasons.
Los Angeles never trailed in beating Milwaukee at home for the fifth straight time and earning a split of the two-game season series. They had a season-high 34 assists and tied a season best for points in a half with 66 before intermission.
Bobby Simmons, the only player to appear in all 68 games for the Clippers, came off the bench for the first time this season and scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. He was playing his second straight game with a sore left leg after getting kicked during Saturday's overtime loss against Sacramento.
Injury-plagued Clippers guard Shawn Livingston, the fourth overall pick in the draft, made his first NBA start after seeing action as a reserve in 15 previous games. He had two points and a career-high 11 assists in 25 minutes.
Livingston had four assists, a layup and two rebounds during the Clippers' game-opening 11-4 run. They extended the margin to 46-20, outscoring Milwaukee 25-9 during a 7:11 span with Simmons contributing a 3-pointer and a pair of 20-footers.
"It was an uphill battle for us from that point on, but our guys really did a great job regrouping in the second half," Porter said. "We had a lot more energy and picked it up defensively. We just tried cutting into the lead possession by possession and getting ourselves within striking distance."
Bucks reserve center Toni Kukoc responded with 13 points during a 5:19 stretch, but it hardly made a dent as Milwaukee cut just five points off the Clippers' 26-point lead.
The largest deficit the Bucks have overcome in a victory this season was 13 points, on Nov. 10 against Charlotte and March 8 against Atlanta.
Hall of Famer Moses Malone, who played for both franchises, turned 50 on Wednesday. Malone made his NBA debut in 1976 with the Buffalo Braves -- two seasons before they became the San Diego Clippers -- and also spent two seasons with the Bucks. He is fifth on the career scoring list. ... The biggest comeback in Bucks history was on Nov. 25, 1977 in Atlanta, when they erased a 29-point deficit with a 35-4 run in the final 8:43 and beat the Hawks 117-115. ... The Clippers have a chance to finish ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific Division standings for only the third time since moving to Los Angeles in 1984-85. They trail their intracity rivals by 1½ games with four weeks remaining. Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy coached the Lakers the first time they finished behind the Clippers (1991-92). ... Chris Kaman had 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Clippers are 10-3 when he records double digits in both categories. ... Milwaukee hasn't won on the road since beating Charlotte 112-102 on Feb. 22 with an NBA season-high 37 assists.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||33-79 (.418)||45-77 (.584)|
|3PM-3PA||5-12 (.417)||6-12 (.500)|
|FTM-FTA||37-47 (.787)||20-29 (.690)|
|Fast Break Points||0||18|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||26 (0/0)||33 (3/0)|