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Hart's late layup lifts Clippers over Bucks

Mar 22, 2007 - 5:33 AM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Jason Hart saved the Los Angeles Clippers from dealing with an embarrassing collapse.

Jason Hart scored the go-ahead layup with three seconds remaining as the Clippers overcame the loss of a 22-point lead en route to a 104-103 victory over the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks.

Hart, who finished with 12 points and five steals, also continued Los Angeles' quest for a playoff spot, pulling the team one-half game ahead of the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

With the Bucks holding a 103-102 edge, Hart grabbed the rebound of a badly-missed 3-pointer by Corey Maggette and worked his way toward the right baseline, where he tossed up a runner that bounced on the rim twice before falling in.

"Jason got a big rebound and his shot fell," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said.

There was some confusion about who would get credit for the game-winner as it appeared that Brand came from the weak side and tapped the ball as it was hanging on the rim.

"I don't know," a smiling Brand said when asked if he tipped the ball. "We'll have to go to the video tape. All I know is the ball went in. They didn't give it to me. I don't have any offensive rebounds (in the box score)."

Milwaukee had a final chance to answer but struggled inbounding the ball, finding Brian Skinner at the free-throw line before the forward-center lost the ball attempting to drive.

"If (Skinner) handles the ball clean, Mike (Redd) is going backdoor for a potential layup," said new coach Larry Krystkowiak, who lost for the first time in three games. "If that's not there, Mo (Williams) comes for a quick handoff. I'll take the heat for it, I really will."

With Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva among the handful of injured players for the Bucks, the Clippers charged to a big lead at the break, 65-52, behind 15 points by Elton Brand.

"We miss our players," Redd said. "We miss Earl (Boykins), Dan (Gadzuric), Andrew, Charlie and Bobby (Simmons)."

That advantage grew to 88-66 when Hart's 20-foot jumper with 2:24 left in the third quarter capped a 12-4 run.

Despite the depleted lineup, Milwaukee rallied, bridging the third and fourth quarters with a 37-12 run.

"Our guys relaxed and came out at times and didn't execute," Dunleavy said. "You can't do that in this league against teams that have firepower. They have Michael Redd that can bang down shots and will play hard like they did tonight."

Redd had 14 of his 27 points - including two 3-pointers - and Charlie Bell and Ruben Patterson added seven each during the surprising spurt, which put the Bucks ahead 103-100 after two free throws by Skinner with 58 seconds left.

However, Maggette responded with a layup and Milwaukee committed a 24-second violation to set up Hart's go-ahead shot.

"Towards the end, we made the plays we need to make to win the game," Maggette said. "If we really want to get in this playoff race, we need to stay focused the whole game."

Combined with the inability to collect the defensive rebound off Maggette's bad miss and the lack of a shot on their final possession, the Bucks ruined their impressive comeback with a trio of mistakes down the stretch.

"That's the little things that become big things at the end of the game," Krystkowiak said about the breakdowns.

Maggette finished with 22 points and Brand added 21 and nine rebounds for the Clippers (32-36), who captured their third win in their last four games, closing a six-game road trip at 3-3.

"It's been a good trip for us," Dunleavy said. "We played well on the trip, but we've had some bad spurts, one of them being our fourth quarter here tonight."

Los Angeles struggled protecting the lead without point guard Sam Cassell, who only played 6 1/2 minutes including none in the second half because of back spasms.

Patterson and Williams each scored 20 points for the Bucks, who lost for the third straight time in games when the opponent scores 100 points.

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