Novak’s seventh 3-pointer beat the buzzer and helped the Clippers snap a seven-game losing streak with a 107-105 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday night.
“With a shot like that, your nerves are so high and you never know if it’s good until you see it go in the basket,” Novak said.
Vince Carter had a season-high 41 points along with seven rebounds and six assists for the Nets, whose postseason hopes may have been severely damaged when point guard and leading scorer Devin Harris left with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter because of a sprained left shoulder.
The first-time All-Star was driving to the basket on an attempted layup, when Marcus Camby swatted the ball and Harris’ right arm simultaneously— sending Harris crashing to the floor.
“When he got hit, he tried to land on that arm and it gave out on him when he hit the court. It looked like he was in excruciating pain, so I knew something was wrong,” Carter said. “It’s funny, because at halftime he was complaining about the same shoulder and how it was bothering him.
The Nets are one of six teams separated by 2 1/2 games in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference—with Milwaukee and Chicago tied for eighth and New Jersey 1 1/2 games behind at 28-38. The first seven teams all are over .500.
“There’s six teams fighting for that seventh and eighth spot, and we feel like we’re very capable. But talking about it means nothing without executing in the game. And right now, we’re not getting the job done,” Carter said after the Nets’ 11th loss in 15 games. “We’ve been in close games and still haven’t gotten over the hump. This one hurts more than anything, because we had the lead. But Novak hit a big-time shot.”
Returning to their home court for the first time since blowing a 19-point fourth-quarter lead in a 87-83 loss to Cleveland last Tuesday, the Clippers led New Jersey by 14 late in the second quarter. But they squandered that margin, too, as Carter scored 13 in the fourth quarter and put the Nets ahead 105-102 on a 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds to play.
“Carter had some really long 3s, but overall our guys played well and we were able to get the lead back,” coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Davis made two free throws for the Clippers with 7.3 seconds left, but they had to foul—and Jarvis Hayes missed both free throws. Los Angeles called time out after Thornton rebounded the second miss, and they threw four passes looking for the open man before Novak connected from in front of the New Jersey bench.
It was a frustrating ending for Hayes, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers to slice an 11-point deficit to 100-95 with 3:43 remaining.
“Words can’t describe it,” Hayes said. “It was terrible. I haven’t felt this bad since my second year in the league, when I crushed my kneecap. That’s how bad it feels. The guys told me not to worry about it and to shrug it off, but I can’t. It was a game that we desperately needed.”
After Harris’ injury, Josh Boone shot the free throws in his place and made both of them to trim the Clippers’ lead to 72-63. Trenton Hassell’s 12-footer made it 72-69 with 6:34 left in the third quarter, but the Clippers restored their double-digit lead by the end of the period.
Nets forward Yi Jianlian, whose numbers have slipped over the past 13 games since his return from an injured finger on his right hand that sidelined him for more than five weeks, went to the bench with 3:36 left in the first quarter and remained there for the rest of the half after missing his first three shots and failing to get a rebound.
New Jersey was trailing by two points when the 7-foot forward—who had a season-high 27 points against the Clippers in a 112-95 win at East Rutherford on Nov. 22—left the floor. The Clippers extended the margin to 65-54 by halftime with 16 points from Davis, but it would have been worse for the Nets had had it not been for Carter’s 20 points in the half, and a 3-pointer by ex-Clipper Keyon Dooling that beat the halftime buzzer.
Carter beat the Clippers with a 3-pointer at the buzzer at Staples Center on March 8, 2000, while playing for Toronto. … Carter overtook Richard Jefferson for second place on the Nets’ career scoring list, increasing his total to 8,532. Buck Williams is first with 10,440. … The Clippers have had eight streaks of seven or more consecutive losses since Dunleavy became head coach in 2003-04, and five other losing streaks of six games during that stretch.