OAKLAND — On a night on which Bill Walton returned to the lineup for the first time in almost a month and Derek Smith was continuing his domination over his old team, it figured that the Clippers were destined to end their embarrassing 10-game road losing streak Saturday night.
The Clippers' last road victory, after all, came here at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on Jan. 12, and it seemed only fitting that it would end at the same place and against the same team, the Golden State Warriors.
Apparently the Warriors, the National Basketball Assn's worst team, didn't agree. Midway through the fourth quarter, Golden State took the lead on a controvserial three-point shot that lifted them to a 108-102 win over the Clippers in front of a crowd of 7,403.
After trailing for most of the game, the Warriors finally took a 94-93 lead with 6:12 left when Sleepy Floyd made a three-point shot. The only problem was that Floyd did not appear to be past the three-point line. Clipper Coach Jim Lynam argued the call for several minutes, to no avail.
From that point, the Clippers could never regain the lead, although they did tie it twice. So, the Clippers (22-38) lost for the fifth straight time and for the 11th straight time on the road. What had to be especially embarrassing was that it came against the Warriors, who are 16-44.
The Warriors, as usual, were led by forward Purvis Short, who scored a game-high 38 points. Floyd shared the scoring load with 23 points, which was one more point than Lynam felt he should have received.
It is becoming sort of a traditional for Smith to have a big offensive night against the Warriors, who released him two years ago, only to regret it. This time, Smith scored 30 points before fouling out with 1:02 left and the Clippers trailing, 104-100.
Ten seconds later, Marques Johnson (14 points) fouled out, and the Clippers' hopes left with him.
On the bright side--f there was one for the Clippers--Walton played his first game in almost a month after being out with soreness in his right ankle. He played 12 minutes, scored eight points and had eight rebounds.
Although their lead wavered several times in the first half, the Clippers were never seriously threatened by the Warriors. But they weren't able to build a gaping margin when they had the opportunities, either.
It was, more or less, a typical half for the Clippers against the Warriors, a team they had beaten four times this season.
The biggest lead the Clippers had in the first half was 10 points (54-44) with 2:01 left when Derek Smith gathered a lob from Norm Nixon and dunked it. Following a Golden State turnover, the Clippers had a chance to put the Warriors in a hole. But instead, the Clippers let the Warriors back in the game.
Three Clipper straight turnovers--by Nixon, Junior Bridgeman and Harvey Catchings--allowed Golden State to pull to within four points at 54-50 with 45 seconds left.
By halftime, the Clippers led by only 56-52. But that wasn't an indication of their first-half dominance.
Except for the first 20 seconds of the first quarter, when Purvis Short scored the game's first points with two free throws, the Warriors never held the lead. They did manage to tie the Clippers twice early in the second quarter, but the Clippers slowly pulled away again.
Smith led the Clippers with 19 first-half points, the same total as Short had to lead Golden State. Both players were far more effective in the first quarter, each scoring 13.
It was Smith who boosted the Clippers to the early lead. In the game's first eight minutes, he scored 11 points on a variety of shots--driving layups, tip-ins, jumpers and free throws.
Smith was on the scoring end of a spectacular play with 4:02 left in the first quarter when Johnson led him with a no-look, behind-the-head pass that fooled every Warrior on the court. Smith simply gathered in the ball and outjumped two defenders to score.
Bill Walton made his first appearance with 3:49 left in the first quarter and made an immediate impact. He had one basket, one assist and three rebounds in his first minute of action alone. In seven minutes of playing time in the first half, Walton had five points (2 of 2 from the field), six rebounds and one assist.
In addition to Smith's 19 points, the Clippers received eight first-half points from Johnson and six each from Bridgeman and Lancaster Gordon. Short was supported by Larry Smith's eight points and six rebounds.
Golden State shot a poor 36% from the field in the first half, the Clippers 52%. The Warriors stayed in it by making 15 of 20 free throws. The Clippers were 8 of 12 from the free-throw line.
Forward Dale Wilkinson, the replacement for injured Clipper Jay Murphy, suited up for Saturday night's game. Wilkinson, who had played for the Wisconsin Flyers of the Continental Basketball Assn., averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 39 games, appeared briefly in two games with the Detroit Pistons earlier this season. . . . Murphy will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday. He has cartilage damage. . . . Raider owner Al Davis attended Saturday night's game with his wife, Carol. Davis has been a Warrior season ticket-holder since 1962.