Clippers 97, Pistons 91
The NBA's worst free throw shooting team looked on in amazement and delight as one of the league's most consistent shooters from the line handed them a victory with an uncharacteristic performance when it counted most.
Chris Kaman had 21 points and 15 rebounds, Drew Gooden added 20 points and 13 boards and the Los Angeles Clippers watched Detroit's Richard Hamilton clang one foul shot after another in the final seconds before they escaped with a 97-91 victory on Wednesday night.
``At one point in time, I thought I couldn't miss a free throw. And then tonight I miss six,'' Hamilton said. ``But it happens. That's the game for you. Just when you think that you can't miss, a game like this happens. It's crazy.''
Hamilton was just 2 for 8 from the line. He missed on his first attempt with 47 seconds left in the second quarter, ending his streak at 51 consecutive free throws made - 11 shy of the franchise record held by Joe Dumars, who is currently the Pistons' president of basketball operations.
``Richard Hamilton made 51 foul shots in a row before tonight, and he goes 2 for 8. That really surprised me because he's such a good foul shooter, and I would want him at the line,'' coach John Kuester said.
Hamilton, whose season has been marred by ankle and hamstring injuries that have limited him to 30 games, had 21 points after averaging 30.5 over his previous four games. He made three 3-pointers in the final 4 1/2 minutes, but missed all three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt that rimmed the basket and fell out with 7.9 seconds to play.
``It shouldn't have come down to that, but that's what happened,'' said Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. ``That's why you've got to play good for 48 minutes and not let the other team hang around long enough to make big shots and big plays at the end of the game. We stopped our flow, and that was it.''
Rasual Butler hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds left for the Clippers, who have won three straight following a six-game losing streak. They completed a two-game season sweep of Detroit after losing the previous 13 meetings.
Los Angeles also won 104-96 on Nov. 27 at Auburn Hills, Mich., against a Pistons squad missing Hamilton, Prince and Ben Gordon because of injuries. The Pistons shot 44 percent from the field in the rematch, one night after finishing a season-best 58 percent in a 101-89 win at Sacramento.
Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter until Gooden sank a pair of free throws with 6.1 seconds remaining.
After Baron Davis hit a 3-pointer to give the Clippers an 85-82 lead with 4:48 remaining, Hamilton responded with back-to-back 3s 40 seconds apart to put Detroit back in front with 3:49 to play. Eric Gordon sank two free throws at the other end and Kaman hit a 15-footer to give Los Angeles an 89-88 edge with 2:33 left.
Kaman made one of two from the line before Hamilton's 3-pointer gave the Pistons their final lead, 91-90, with 44 seconds on the clock. Butler responded with his clutch 3-pointer and added a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left.
The Pistons, who came in shooting a league-worst 29.4 percent from 3-point range, were 5 for 18. They scored nine straight points late in the first half to take a 49-37 lead, their biggest of the game, but couldn't build on that momentum.
``We didn't come out in that third quarter the way we wanted to, and that kind of dictated the game,'' Hamilton said. ``They got confidence and they made a run. And once they get the confidence that they can win the game, it's tough to beat them.''
The Clippers used their 13th different starting lineup, with interim coach Kim Hughes giving Gooden his first start since joining them in a trade last week with Washington. He had nine points in the opening period along with seven boards - equaling the most rebounds by a Pistons opponent in a quarter this season.
``I'm beginning to get comfortable with my new team,'' Gooden said. ``I'm just trying to fit in. We are trying to play as a team and get some wins with the new players we have. I played 14 straight minutes tonight, which means I'm meeting some of Coach's expectations.''
NOTES: The NBA record for consecutive free throws made is 97, by Minnesota's Micheal Williams. The league mark for consecutive free throws made in the same season is 78, by Houston's Calvin Murphy in 1980-81. ... The Clippers have scored fewer than 100 points in 15 of their last 16 games. The only exception was a 132-102 loss at Golden State. ... The Clippers swept the Pistons for only the second time in the last 18 seasons. They didn't face each other during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign. ... The Clippers failed to record any fast-break points for the second straight game, after averaging 13.9 over their previous 55 contests this season.