The Clippers won a game they should have won Sunday, taking a 102-100 victory from the Memphis Grizzlies and ending a four-game losing streak before an energetic crowd of 16,225 at Staples Center.
They also welcomed Quentin Richardson back to the court and Keyon Dooling back to the active roster after injuries.
The other good news could come today, when the Clippers expect to learn if Elton Brand will be cleared to practice and play after sitting out five weeks because of a stress fracture above his left ankle.
Certainly, the Clippers, 23-50 and destined to finish in last place in the Pacific Division, could use more days like Sunday. Everything didn’t go their way, but enough did and that enabled them to leave the arena with smiles after a rare victory since their season took a turn for the worse some months ago.
After all, this victory was only their fourth since Dennis Johnson replaced Alvin Gentry as coach March 4. They are 6-18 since the All-Star break.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m as happy as anybody that we won,” Johnson said after first running down a list of all of the Clippers’ shortcomings, which included a lack of steady defensive pressure and an inability to nurture a late lead. “These are the kinds of games we normally lose.”
As has become his custom, Johnson turned to his reserves for a spark.
Rookie Chris Wilcox scored 15 points on six-for-seven shooting in 22 minutes, one game after getting a career-best 16 points in Thursday’s loss at Sacramento. Eric Piatkowski added 12 points in 24 minutes and Melvin Ely had 11 points in 21 minutes.
“I’m becoming more accustomed to the game,” Wilcox said when asked about his newfound aggressiveness around the basket, highlighted by thunderous dunks and eye-catching finger-rolls.
“I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity. I’m trying to get a good shooting percentage.”
Marko Jaric, rather than Andre Miller, directed the Clippers down the stretch. Jaric guided them to a 99-92 lead in the final minutes, but they couldn’t put away the Grizzlies. Pau Gasol made a twisting layup and a free throw with 1:11 left and Mike Miller made a three-point basket with 49.8 seconds to go.
Lamar Odom made a hook shot for the Clippers, but Gasol countered with one of his own to keep the Grizzlies within 101-100.
Miller had a wide-open three-pointer, with Johnson the closest Clipper to him, but missed.
Jaric sank a free throw to account for the final points.
With the fans standing and chanting, “Defense, defense” Wesley Person’s jump shot from the right corner was short at the final buzzer.