Hornets 86, Clippers 83

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Eliminated from playoff contention before the final buzzer, the Los Angeles Clippers had another reason to be grumpy with summer vacation looming.

Rasual Butler hit the tie-breaking jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining to give New Orleans an 86-83 victory over Los Angeles in the NBA’s final regular season game Wednesday night.

“I definitely don’t want the season to be over now,” Clippers star Elton Brand said. “It really hurts, it really burns.”

The Clippers finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs a season after losing to Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals. A victory over the Hornets, coupled with a loss by Golden State, would have nudged the Clippers into the postseason. But the Warriors won 120-98 at Portland to end the Clippers’ meager hopes.

“We came in here with a little chip on our shoulder, knowing that the game could determine what was going to happen to them,” New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “It’s great to win games like that because you know you have nothing to really lose and they have everything to lose. Our guys came out there and had a good time.”

Los Angeles would have clinched the West’s eighth and final playoff berth with victories in its final three games. But the Clippers lost 105-100 against lowly Sacramento on Sunday, putting their fate in Golden State’s hands. Losing to the Kings proved especially costly considering the Clippers won 103-99 at Phoenix Tuesday.

“We need to improve our attention to detail,” Brand said. “We lost some tough games because of some bonehead plays.”

On Wednesday night, Corey Maggette missed a driving layup for the Clippers with the score tied at 83 and the ball glanced off Brand’s hand for the turnover.

Marc Jackson, who had 12 points, missed a 19-footer, but Butler snagged the rebound and scored from 4 feet while getting fouled by Jason Hart. He made the free throw.

Brand took the Clippers’ final shot, but he didn’t get it off in time.

David West led the Hornets with 32 points—two off his career high. Devin Brown added 12 and Butler 11. Chris Paul had 10 assists.

“It feels great to see West do what he did down the stretch,” Paul said. “That was the D. West of last year. I think a lot of people saw this game tonight on ESPN and said, `Man, that guy can play.’ I knew it already, but he is one of the best power forwards in the league.”

Maggette led five Clippers in double figures with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tim Thomas added 16 points, Sam Cassell 14, and Brand and Chris Kaman had 11 each.

“When you look around the room at all the talent that we have, not to get back into the playoffs is frustrating,” Thomas said.

The Hornets were eliminated last Saturday with a loss at Houston. They finished 39-43—one win better than last year’s total, but their third consecutive losing season under Scott.

“It’s very hard to get in the playoffs in the Western Conference when you have 160-plus games missed due to injury and most of them are very significant to the success of your team,” Scott said. “Peja (Stojakovic), David West, Bobby Jackson, Chris Paul all missed a significant amount of time this season. But I thought our guys fought all season long.”

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with four ties and neither team leading by more than four points.

Los Angeles led by two at halftime before New Orleans ran off 13 consecutive points for a 55-46 lead, helped by six points from West. That led to some booing, but the Clippers quieted their fans with an 18-2 spurt. Thomas launched it with back-to-back 3-pointers—part of his 11-point burst—and Cassell finished things off with six straight points for a 64-57 lead.

West scored six of New Orleans’ final eight points to close within one heading into the fourth quarter.

Notes

Clippers G Cuttino Mobley missed the final two games of the season because of a torn left calf muscle. … Hornets G Paul said he will likely have surgery Monday on his left foot because of a stress reaction. … The Clippers finished 12-9 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. … There was a moment of silence before the game to honor victims of the Virginia Tech massacre.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New Orl/OKC
D. West D. West
15-26,  32 Pts
9 Rebs, 0 Assists
 LA Clippers
C. Maggette C. Maggette
7-16,  21 Pts
11 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
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Wednesday, Apr 18