El Nino-induced downpours made sure the Utah Jazz didn't get a chance to relax in the sun on the beach during their trip to southern California, but at least playing the Los Angeles Clippers these days is like having a vacation.
Or so they must have thought.The Jazz, or the group of impostors that looked like them and were wearing their jerseys Tuesday night, lost to the lowly Clips, 111-102, at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
That is not a typo. The Jazz lost.
To the Clippers.
Not since the completion of the O.J. trials has the L.A. area had as much unusual news as it had Tuesday. Floods were closing streets and schools. There were widespread power outages. Monica Lewinsky flew into town to see her father and a media circus awaited her arrival. But the Clippers beating the Jazz may have been the most unlikely event of all.
Los Angeles, which had lost eight straight and had two of its top players - Loy Vaught and Brent Barry - out with injuries, dominated the defending Western Conference champs.
Needless to say, it wasn't the type of effort the Jazz wanted just prior to the five-time world champion Chicago Bulls' lone regular-season visit to the Delta Center tonight. While the natural inclination would be to think the Jazz overlooked the Clippers with their minds on the rematch with the Bulls - or even on the upcoming All-Star break - the Jazz said that wasn't the problem.
"I don't want to hear nothing about us overlooking them," said Karl Malone. "They just kicked our (butts)."
"We have no excuses," said Adam Keefe. "We were rested and prepared, but when we were out on the floor we just didn't get the job done."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who was disgusted with Utah's effort on Sunday - in a 27-point victory against Golden State - was, as one would expect, even more upset Tuesday.
"They kicked us all over the building," said Sloan. "We were in another world. I guess these guys are still out in Disneyland . . . I can understand losing. But I can't understand it when guys don't compete."
While the Clippers have struggled this season after making the playoffs a year ago, they've given the Jazz all they could handle in both games thus far this year. Utah trailed for the majority of the game on Nov. 29 before Karl Malone willed the team to a three-point victory.
"We can't expect just to come in here and beat this team," said Keefe. "We should have learned our lesson last time we were down here."
The Jazz's largest lead Tuesday was one point. Utah never led after midway through the opening quarter.
"They seem to get ready to play us," said Malone, who finished with a team-high 23 points. "I guess we just bring out the best in them. They have talent and they play us hard every time."
Two things killed the Jazz - rebounding and the Clippers' long-range shooting. Los Angeles con-trolled the boards, finishing with a 43-26 advantage. The Clips' 16 offensive rebounds led to 17 second-chance points. The Jazz, meanwhile, had four second-chance points.
"We just don't have anybody who will try to rebound the ball," said Sloan. "It's a shame to see us not even going after the ball. Rebounding is not a big deal. It's just wanting the ball, and we didn't want the ball like they did."
The Clippers shot 51.2 percent from the field and were even better from 3-point range. They were 12 for 23 from beyond the arc (52.2 percent). James Robinson, who scored a game-high 25 points off the bench, Rodney Rogers and Eric Piatkowski were particular thorns in Utah's side. They combined to hit 12-of-17 treys. Rail-thin center Lorenzen Wright fin-ished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. His six offensive boards equaled Utah's entire output on the offensive glass.
The Clippers led by 15 at the half and by as many as 21 early in the second when the Jazz made their only real rally. Utah guards John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Howard Eisley combined to score 28 points in the third quarter as the Jazz cut the gap to five entering the final period.
But Utah hasn't been a strong come-from-behind team this season - and they weren't Tuesday. Twelve times this year the Jazz have trailed after three quarters of play. All 12 games have been Jazz losses.
Stockton and Hornacek scored 22 points. Stockton added 10 assists, while Eisley finished with a dozen points.
The Jazz, who beat the Bulls in Chicago 10 days ago, will attempt to make it a clean sweep tonight.
Utah won't have to wait long to get another shot at the Clippers, either. The Jazz will host the Clips next Tuesday in the first game back from the All-Star break.