Clippers run down by Ford

Times Staff Writer

Allen Iverson is a mile high.

Iverson's arrival in Denver, after being dealt by the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, was temporarily delayed by severe weather that forced the Denver Nuggets' game against the Phoenix Suns to be postponed.

Meanwhile, back in sunny Southern California, the Clippers continued their descent, losing to the Toronto Raptors, 98-96, in front of an announced 17,921 at Staples Center.

T.J. Ford's 15-foot buzzer-beater gift-wrapped the Clippers' fifth consecutive loss, though their agony extended another minute while referees reviewed the play.

"That could be our most disappointing loss of the season," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "I'm disappointed with the way we are playing right now. We gave up 58 points in the first half, and that was way, way too much.

"The only way to get out of this is to show up and play harder, starting with practice tomorrow."

That is followed by a two-game swing into Texas, where the Clippers will play the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, two of the Western Conference's better teams. The Clippers, at this point, showed they were unable to handle one of the Eastern Conference also-rans.

The Raptors were even without leading scorer Chris Bosh.

But Ford scored 14 points, including the last jumper that followed Cuttino Mobley's airball on the Clippers' previous possession. Reserves Fred Jones, who averages nine points, scored 23 and former UCLA guard Darrick Martin, who had played in only four games, had 12.

"Teams are just playing harder than us right now," said the Clippers' Corey Maggette, who had 20 points while making only his second start of the season. "We're in a hole and we have to find a way out."

A possible pathfinder in that quest went elsewhere this week

Iverson was being shopped everywhere but on EBay, leaving some unsure players in locker rooms across the league, and the trade announcement brought a sigh of relief.

The Iverson trade talk had become an unwanted distraction for the Clippers, who are scratching to reverse the season-long disappointment that have been thus far. With the deal done, the Clippers were ready to relax and win.

"It's good for us to have all that behind us," Clippers' guard Shaun Livingston.

"I thought there was way to much being made about the trade," Livingston said. "Now it's over and everyone is still here. We have lots of potential on this team. When it starts surfacing, we're going to get on a run."

What surfaced Wednesday for the Clippers was Sam Cassell, who had missed three of the last four games because of a heel injury. He entered late in the first quarter and proceeded to miss his first two shots. By halftime, he was five of seven from the field and had a team-high 11 points to help keep the Raptors within reach, 57-50, at halftime.

The Clippers erased a 93-87 deficit in the final five minutes, and even took a 96-94, on Livingston's two free throws with 51 seconds left. Ford then made two free throws before his game-winning shot.

"Every time you lose a game, that makes the next one that much bigger," Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy tried to put the Iverson question behind him, and his team Thursday.

"I'm not talking about it, it's a done issue," Dunleavy said. "There was a lot written already and a lot of that was off the mark."

Still, Dunleavy couldn't resist speculating himself, especially since the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony, who leads the NBA in scoring, now will play with Iverson, who is second.

"I thought there were teams that were better fits for him," Dunleavy said. "You have the two top scorers. The issue of how they will share the ball is to be seen."

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