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Clippers Show Houston and the Lakers, 104-97

November 07, 1986|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — The Lakers aren't going to believe this.

And neither is the rest of the National Basketball Assn.

The Clippers, coming off Tuesday night's embarrassing 32-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks, did what the Lakers haven't been able to do, stunning the Houston Rockets, 104-97, Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 16,016 at the Summit.

"I had a good feeling about this game," Clipper Coach Don Chaney said. "The Rockets will be the number one contender with the Boston Celtics. Sometimes the teams on top overlook the other teams."

You can say that again.

The Clippers were described as a "dog team" by the Houston Chronicle before the game. And it didn't have anything to do with the Clippers being 11-point underdogs.

It's a little too early in the season to start labeling teams, but the Clippers did get out of Chaney's doghouse.

The Clipper coach had assailed his players after their humiliating 118-86 defeat at Dallas, and he put the Clippers through an intense practice Wednesday night.

"We wanted to win for him more than ourselves," Clipper forward Cedric Maxwell said. "We wanted to get him off our backs."

Said Chaney: "I was tough on them because the game we played in Dallas was an embarrassment. I was embarrassed, and the players were embarrassed.

"I briefly got their attention, and that's all I wanted to do. You don't show up in a professional game and get beat by 32 and go through the motions. I thought it was basically mental."

Against the Rockets, guard Larry Drew scored a team-high 25 points and had 7 assists as the Clippers (2-2) handed the defending Western Conference champions their first loss in three games this season.

Drew had eight points in the fourth quarter, including six in the final three minutes. He hit a 20-foot jumper with 38 seconds left to give the Clippers a 102-97 lead.

Forward Marques Johnson added 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Johnson scored four points and had a key steal in the final two minutes.

Maxwell added 18 points, center Benoit Benjamin had 14 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out with 1:48 left, and forward Michael Cage grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds, including 12 in the second half, to go with his 6 points.

The Clippers, who were outrebounded in their first three games, beat the Rockets on the boards, 49-45.

"Outside of on the dance floor, this is as active as I've seen Michael Cage," Johnson said.

Rocket center Akeem Olajuwon, who scored 26 points in each of Houston's previous wins, over the Lakers and Sacramento, had 31 points, 17 rebounds, 5 blocked shots and 3 assists. He had 18 points in the first half, including 14 in the first quarter.

Ralph Sampson, who with Olajuwon forms the Rockets' Twin Towers, is still out with a sprained ankle.

"I can't tell whether they miss Ralph or not," Chaney said. "I know they're stronger with him in there. With Ralph in there, it gives Olajuwon a break."

Rodney McCray had 19 points and Mitchell Wiggins 16 for Houston.

The Clippers had lost an eight-point lead in their season-opening 107-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings last Friday night, but they held their poise against the Rockets.

"I didn't feel confident until Drew hit the two free throws with three seconds left," Johnson said. "Against Sacramento we had that eight-point lead, and everything that could go wrong did. I kept reminding the guys of that in the last timeout. We couldn't get complacent.

"This win is a boost, especially after what happened two nights ago in Dallas. To get blown out by the Mavs and then come back and beat a team like Houston after they played well against the Lakers is a feather in our cap."

The Clippers had a five-point lead, 74-70, going into the fourth quarter, but the Rockets cut it to 98-95 with 1:33 left as Olajuwon scored six straight points on two dunks and a 10-foot bank shot.

But Johnson hit a 15-foot bank shot with 1:12 left to give the Clippers a 100-95 lead.

After Rocket guard Allen Leavell scored on a drive with 58 seconds left to cut it to 100-97, the Clippers called a timeout to set up a play.

Drew then hit the 20-foot jumper from the right wing with 38 seconds remaining.

"They sagged off, and he went up and knocked it down," Chaney said. "You've got to have gutsy players who are willing to take the initiative and take the shot."

Johnson stole the ball from Wiggins with 19 seconds left, but Wiggins tied up Johnson. The Clippers controlled the jump as Johnson tipped the ball to Cage.

Drew sank two free throws with three seconds left, after being fouled by Leavell, to wrap up the win.

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