Heat 97, Clippers 88

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MIAMI (AP)—Lamar Odom had two reasons to enjoy the Miami Heat’s 97-88 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

Not only did the Heat log another win in their push for their first playoff berth in three years, but Odom also had the satisfaction of defeating his former team.

“I was put in a situation where I had to prove myself this year,” said Odom, who played his first four seasons with the Clippers. “Nobody thought that I was any good.”

Odom is proving doubters wrong. He led Miami with 25 points as the Heat completed a sweep of the season series.

“It’s not personal, but I guess I’m a little more mentally focused,” Odom said of his performances against the Clippers.

“He played excellent tonight,” said Clippers forward and ex-teammate Elton Brand. “I played with him, so I know he’s capable of that. It’s not a surprise to me.”

Rafer Alston secured the victory on a 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to put Miami ahead 91-83. The Heat took their first double-digit lead of the game 32 seconds later when Malik Allen hit a baseline jumper.

Odom, who scored eight points in the final quarter, also had 14 rebounds.

Said Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, “his effort is very high when he plays them. He has done it with all the things that the people have questioned about his game.”

Brand had 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who began a nine-game road trip.

After leading 78-77 with 6:05 left, Miami stretched its lead to 83-77 on three free throws by Odom and two by Allen in the next 1:40.

“We put a lot of effort and energy in this game,” Heat forward Caron Butler said. “It felt great.”

The Clippers built a 19-11 first-period lead before the Heat went on a 12-4 run in the final 3:55.

“I thought in the first half that we were mindless on both ends of the court,” Van Gundy said. “I think we played a little individual in the first half.”

Former Miami guard Eddie House sparked the Clippers with 10 second-quarter points as Los Angeles took a 41-35 lead with 4:39 remaining before halftime.

But Miami held the Clippers to 38 second-half points. Butler helped shut down Los Angeles as he finished with 11 rebounds.

Protecting the lead helped the Heat overcome the frustrations of blowing a late advantage in Wednesday’s 94-93 loss at Cleveland.

“I think we hurt ourselves against Cleveland and tonight we came out in the second half and took a step forward,” said Miami guard Eddie Jones. “When we play defense like that, good things happen for our offense.”

The Clippers had 17 second-half turnovers.

“We did everything right in the first half, in the second half we just turned the ball over,” House said. “We started making bad plays and throwing the ball all over the court.

“I don’t know what got into us in that second half.” ^Notes: Los Angeles won’t return home until after the All-Star break when it plays host to Boston on Feb. 19. … Miami swept the season after losing its previous four games to the Clippers. … Brand and Odom each have 23 double-doubles this season. … Alston’s 3-pointer in the fourth quarter gave him 13 consecutive games with at last one 3-pointer for the second time thisseason.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 LA Clippers
E. Brand E. Brand
7-14,  23 Pts
15 Rebs, 2 Assists
L. Odom L. Odom
7-17,  25 Pts
14 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders