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.
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.