Ford wins it at buzzer

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- There were no ifs, ands or sore butts about last night as a hurting T.J. Ford scored a last-second jump shot to lift the Raptors to a 98-96 victory over the L.A. Clippers in front of 17,962 stunned fans at the Staples Center.

Ford dribbled the ball as the clock wound down and then launched a 17-foot shot that touched nothing but net as the Raptors bench erupted in celebration.

"I went to (coach Sam Mitchell) and told him I wanted the last shot," Ford said about the timeout before the final play.

SWEET SPOT

"He drew up a play to clear it out and let me go one-on-one and I was able to get a sweet spot where I felt comfortable to shoot the ball, and it went through."

Ford finished with 14 points and nine assists.

First-year Raptor Fred Jones, who has been struggling with his shot at times this season, broke out in a big way last night, scoring a season-high 23 to lead the Raptors.

Ford exhibited guts just to take the shot, but also just playing the game. He hurt his behind the night before in Phoenix and was questionable to start last night's game.

The victory evened Toronto's record to 1-1 on their four-game west coast swing.

Toronto led for most of the game and by as much as nine points in the fourth quarter, but a series of bad-pass turnovers allowed the Clippers back into the game.

The Raptors have fallen on hard times, health-wise, as they still are without star power forward Chris Bosh, who is out with a bruised left knee, and backup point guard Jose Calderon, who bruised his lower back on Sunday. Calderon was expected to arrive in L.A. last night and is hopeful for tomorrow's game in Portland.

Ford and forward Jorge Garbajosa (strained right calf) were questionable for the game last night after hurting themselves in Toronto's 115-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday and only Ford was able to play.

Ford hurt himself even more in the third quarter when he ended up about 10 rows up in the stands after chasing a loose ball. Unfortunately for the Raptors, the Clippers scored a basket while Ford attempted to eradicate himself from a group of fans.

The Raptors trailed by only one (26-25) at the end of the first quarter despite picking up nine fouls in the quarter to only three for L.A. On the strength of going 5-for-7 from three-point range in the second quarter, the Raps held a 58-50 lead at the half.

The Clippers went on a 14-6 run to start the third quarter, tying the game at 64-64, before the Raptors fought back into a eight-point lead. The highlight of the quarter occurred when Ford stole the ball from Cuttino Mobley and fed the ball to Fred Jones for an easy layup. Mobley was slapped with a technical foul on the play and Jones scored on the free. Toronto led 84-75 with 12 minutes to go.

BRAND A FORCE FOR L.A.

Elton Brand tied the game, 94-94 with just over two minutes left on a tip-in after Toronto failed to pull in another defensive rebound. Brand then blocked a Joey Graham layup, and Shaun Livingston then went to the free-throw line, converted on both, to give the Clippers a 96-94 lead with 52 seconds left.

Cuttino Mobley then fouled Ford with 44 seconds left and the Toronto point guard scored two to tie it. With 16 seconds left, and the ball in their hands, Toronto took a timeout and then Ford performed his heroics.

Raptors rookie Andrea Bargnani continued his solid play, coming off the bench to score 13 with seven rebounds.

Brand was a rock for the Clippers, picking up 24 points with 10 rebbounds, while centre Chris Kaman had 10 points and nine boards.

The Raptors continue their four-game, west coast swing tomorrow night against the Portland TrailBlazers.


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