Heat 87, Clippers 85
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Lamar Odom’s defense and rebounding proved more valuable than his offense in his triumphant return to Los Angeles.
“He’s one of the better rebounders in the league now,” Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I mean, over the last month, month and a half, he’s been right around 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
“He’s been fabulous—but we stay on him about it all the time. When he has a game like last night, when he only got five rebounds, we’re on him pretty hard because we need him to rebound. For a slender guy in there battling with the big guys, he’s taken that job on and done a very good job.”
Odom averaged 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds during his checkered career with the Clippers, who made him the fourth overall pick in the 1999 draft.
“It’s a little different, coming in here and walking into this locker room. But it’s just another game and you’ve got to approach it like that,” said Odom, who was booed by the crowd of 14,233 every time he touched the ball or came into the game.
“When you play somewhere for four years, you get used to being there. It’s shocking when you’re not, but you have to move on. I was comfortable here, but I guess it was time for a change.”
Odom played only 78 games during his final two seasons in Los Angeles, his playing time limited by wrist and ankle injuries—and two suspensions totaling 13 games for violating the NBA’s drug policy.
“Sometimes a change of scenery is good for a guy,” Van Gundy said. “I really don’t know exactly what the situation was here, but I just know that he’s been great with us. He’s been very professional, his work ethic’s been great, he’s got himself into tremendous shape. He’s carried a very heavy load for us and done it well.”
Odom insisted he held no grudges against the Clippers, and his ex-teammates had nothing negative to say about him, either.
“It felt a little weird, having him on opposite sides after playing with him for two seasons and going to war with him,” said Elton Brand, who led the Clippers with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Eddie Jones capped a 21-point effort with a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute, helping Miami end a four-game losing streak. Reserve Caron Butler scored 14 points for the Heat, who had lost their previous five road games and four straight against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Miami committed a season-low five turnovers. The Heat’s previous low was seven, against Atlanta in a 97-79 win on Dec. 10. The Heat came in averaging 14.4 turnovers.
Corey Maggette had 21 points for the Clippers, who played without Quentin Richardson for the third time in four games because of a sprained right wrist. Bobby Simmons left with 1:58 to go in the third quarter after spraining his left knee.
Jones drained 3-pointers at both ends of a 15-4 run that turned Miami’s one-point deficit into a 60-50 lead with 4:22 left in the third quarter. The Clippers, whose previous two games went to overtime, gradually reduced the margin before tying the score at 79 on a pair of free throws and a 21-footer by Eddie House with 4:48 remaining.
Maggette’s 23-footer put the Clippers within one, but Jones responded with an uncontested 3-pointer from the left corner with 45.8 seconds to play.
Maggette’s layup put the Clippers within a basket with 31 seconds left. Odom milked about 15 seconds off the clock, then lost the ball out of bounds while driving against Maggette. But Odom kept focused and prevented Maggette from getting off a potential game-tying shot before the final buzzer.
“I was trying to do whatever I could,” Maggette said. “They were sitting there waiting for me, so I just tried to bull my way through. Lamar played gooddefense on that last possession.”
Marko Jaric had a career-high 11 assists, becoming the first Clipper this season to record double digits in that category. … Miami assistant coach Bob McAdoo holds the Clippers’ franchise record of 246 blocked shots in a season. It was the 1973-74 campaign, when they were still the Buffalo Braves. … The Clippers waived F Glenn Rice and activated F Melvin Ely, who missed 12games because of influenza.