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Raptors repair ills, defeat Clippers with buzzer-beater

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- T.J. Ford made only four field goals on 12
shots for the Toronto Raptors. His last basket came just in time.

Ford hit a buzzer-beater from the foul line, reserve guard Fred
Jones scored a season-high 23 points and the injury-riddled Raptors
held off a determined Elton Brand down the stretch to beat the Los
Angeles Clippers 98-96 Wednesday night.

"I told the coach to put the ball in my hands," Ford said. "I
wanted the last shot. Either we were going to win the game or go
into overtime. I was able to get into a spot I felt comfortable
shooting the ball in, and it went through."

Trailing by nine after Morris Peterson's 3-pointer with 9:09 to
play, the Clippers pulled ahead 96-94 with a 16-5 run capped by
Shaun Livingston's two free throws with 52 seconds left. Brand
blocked layup attempts by Ford and Joey Graham during the rally,
but the Raptors tied it with a pair of foul shots by Ford.

They got one final possession after Cuttino Mobley threw up an
airball from 16 feet, and Ford calmly ran the clock down before
hitting his game-winning shot over Quinton Ross -- the Clippers'
defensive specialist.

"We told him to make sure when he shot the ball that there was
no time on the clock," coach Sam Mitchell said. "We told him to
make sure we got the last shot."

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy acknowledged that his team's final
possession wasn't designed for Mobley to take a shot in that
situation, and Los Angeles should have called a timeout to get
reorganized.

"Cuttino was trying to pass the ball the whole play," Jones
said. "We forced him into the corner, and I knew there were only a
couple of seconds left on the shot clock. I knew he would have to
take the shot and that I could get up and contest it. He didn't
have time to pump-fake or do anything else."

Toronto's reserves outscored their Los Angeles counterparts
56-17 while Chris Bosh sat out his seventh straight contest with a
bruised left knee. All the Clippers' bench points came from Sam
Cassell, who returned to the lineup after missing two of the
previous three games because of a sore left heel. He shot 8-for-16
in 29 minutes.

For the second straight game, the Clippers couldn't beat a team
that was missing one of its leading scorers. Houston beat Los
Angeles on Sunday without Tracy McGrady.

The Raptors are tied with Boston for second place in the
Atlantic Division, a half-game behind New Jersey in the only
division where every team is under .500.

Brand had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Corey Maggette added 20
for the Clippers, whose fifth straight loss equaled their longest
skid this season. They never lost more than five in a row last
season en route to a 47-35 record, the second-best in franchise
history behind the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves (49-33).

Los Angeles has lost six of its last nine home games after
starting out a franchise-best 6-0, and is last in the Pacific
Division at 10-14. Adding to Dunleavy's frustration was the absence
of forward Tim Thomas, who bruised his left elbow in Sunday's game.

"It was our most disappointing loss of the year," Dunleavy
said. "We clearly needed this game, and we didn't respond. I'm
really disappointed with our team and the way we're playing right
now. There's only one thing that's going to get us out of our
slump, and that's by guys coming in and playing harder every
game."

The Clippers, who came in shooting an NBA-worst 29.4 percent
from 3-point range, were further hampered in that regard by Thomas'
absence. They have been outscored 75-12 on 3-point baskets over
their last three games.

Los Angeles' only 3-point attempt came with 3:39 left in the
third quarter as Mobley trimmed Toronto's lead to 70-69. But the
Raptors answered with nine consecutive points and took an 84-75
lead into the fourth on Jones' 3-pointer with less than a second
left in the period.

Game notes
The Clippers played their first game since losing out to
Denver in the Allen Iverson trade sweepstakes. Whether he and
Dunleavy could have coexisted in harmony is debatable. "You never
know -- and now you won't know," Dunleavy said. ... Raptors rookie
Jorge Garbajosa sat out because of a strained right calf and Jose
Calderon also was sidelined for the second consecutive game with a
bruised lower back.