Game 3: The Clippers’ season ends with a 104-92 pounding by Utah, which finishes a first-round sweep.


The Clippers distributed towels for fans to wave during Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Utah Jazz.

But they became crying towels after the Jazz swept the Clippers out of the playoffs, 104-92, Monday night before 11,747 at the Sports Arena.

One fan threw his towel from the second level of the arena to the floor in disgust with 1:59 to play.


“It’s hard to lose and begin the summer on a loss like this,” said Clipper forward Loy Vaught. “But hopefully we can learn from this. We made the playoffs and that was our goal.”

Clipper Coach Bill Fitch agreed.

“I wouldn’t trade this team for the one in the other locker room, even though we just lost to them three times, because of the way I feel about each and every guy,” Fitch said.

The Jazz, which finished with the second-best record in the NBA, winning a franchise-record 64 games, will face the winner of the Laker-Portland Trail Blazer series in the Western Conference semifinals.

Who does Fitch favor?

“I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole,” he said. “I don’t get paid to make a fool out of myself more than 82 times in the regular season and three times in the playoffs.”

The Jazz, which has made three appearances in the Western Conference finals in the last five seasons, won its first three games from the Lakers this season before Shaquille O’Neal made a game-winning shot in a 100-98 victory on April 13 at the Forum.

If the Lakers meet the Jazz, they may better suited to trade elbows with Karl Malone, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds Monday night.


Malone, who had his best season in five years, averaging 27.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists and shooting 55%, made eight of 16 shots and all 10 free throws in 41 minutes.

Malone said the Clippers weren’t embarrassed.

“They played their butts off the whole game,” Malone said. “You guys [the media] had them beat before they were beaten, but we knew when we’re doing the things we can do as a team from one to 12, we can be pretty fun to watch.”

Most teams fly home immediately after games, but the Jazz remained in Los Angeles on Monday night because it believed the Clippers might extend the series.

Instead, Utah, which ended the regular season with a 14-game winning streak and won its fourth Midwest Division title, swept a series for the first time in franchise history.

Utah did it by playing physical basketball. Jazz guard John Stockton, who took a swing at Clipper forward Bo Outlaw after they were tangled up near the Clipper bench in the first game of the series, could have been called for a flagrant foul after pulling Outlaw down under the Clipper basket with 4:18 to play in the second quarter.

Greg Foster unintentionally knocked Outlaw into the base of the basket with 1:11 to play in the third quarter.


Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek, who shot 27.8% in the first two games of the series, made his first seven shots before missing a jump shot in the third quarter. Hornacek scored a team-high 28 points and had 10 points in the third quarter, when the Jazz built an 80-63 lead.

Stockton, Utah’s other member of the U.S. Olympic Dream Team, had 12 points and 13 assists, and the Jazz’s starting backcourt outscored its Clipper counterparts, 40-19.

Malone said he takes playing with Stockton for granted.

“I think there will be a time when I look back and say ‘God, that’s incredible,’ ” Malone said. “But now I expect it. I take it for granted, to tell you the truth.”

Guards Darrick Martin and Malik Sealy combined to make only five of 13 shots.

Martin, who scored 38 points in a 14-point win over the Jazz on Dec. 30 at the Sports Arena, missed five of seven shots and had six points and five assists in 25 minutes.

Sealy, who sat out the second half of Game 2 because of food poisoning, had 13 points.

The Clippers, who had the worst record of any playoff team, trailed by as many as 23 points in the third quarter.

But they outscored the Jazz, 18-10, to cut the lead to 91-81 when Sealy made three free throws with 3:26 to play.


The Clippers built their comeback on defense, as the Jazz missed seven of its first nine shots in the quarter.

But that was as close as the Clippers, who lost six consecutive games after clinching a playoff berth, could get.

“I think we were a little overmatched,” Sealy said. “We can’t cry over spilled milk, not having a center the entire season.”

Vaught, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the first game of the series, had 20 points and seven rebounds Monday despite sitting out the second quarter after drawing his third foul.



Jazz wins series, 3-0

* Game 1: Utah 106, Clippers 86

* Game 2: Utah 105, Clippers 99

* Game 3: Utah 104, Clippers 92

* MUM’S THE WORD: The Jazz players weren’t talking about perhaps playing the Lakers, Randy Harvey writes. C2

* NO JOKE: At least the Clippers took their status above that of a sit-com, Mark Heisler writes. C7


* THE BOSS: David Stern says the NBA won’t pressure the Clippers to move. C7