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Clippers Win the Battle of NBA's Worst Teams

January 29, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

The rest of the National Basketball Assn. isn't going to believe this.

The Clippers actually won a game.

It's not a typo.

The Clippers won their first game in 14 days by beating the New Jersey Nets, 98-91, Wednesday night before an announced crowd of 5,711 at the Sports Arena.

The victory broke a five-game losing streak for the Clippers, who had lost 33 of their last 35 games.

The game matched the worst two teams in the NBA. The Clippers have the worst record (6-36) and the Nets (11-31) have the second-worst mark. The Nets have lost 3 straight and 9 of their last 10.

"At least it's a win," said Clipper Coach Don Chaney. "When I look at a team, I don't look at their record. I thought they (the Nets) were a tired team tonight."

Point guard Darnell Valentine scored 20 points and had 6 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the Clippers.

"It feels good to win a game," Valentine said. "If we can start believing in ourselves and go out with the realization that together we can play as a team, we'll win some more games."

Mike Woodson, the Clippers' other starting guard, had a miserable shooting night, scoring only seven points. Woodson, averaging 16.5 points per game, made just 3 of 14 shots from the floor and hit the only free throw he attempted.

The Clippers, however, received strong play from their forwards. Kenny Fields scored 18 points, and Michael Cage had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Cage got into a scuffle with Net forward Buck Williams in the third quarter. Cage, who was fouled by guard Tony Brown, shoved Brown. Williams came to Brown's defense and got a technical foul.

"I hope this is the beginning of a trend," Cage said. "A lot of pride was out there tonight. It feels good. This was my 25th birthday, and this is the best birthday present I could have asked for."

Rory White came off the bench to score 13 points in 23 minutes for the Clippers. Larry Drew and Quintin Dailey scored nine points apiece.

The Clippers also received solid play from an unexpected source--rookie center Tim Kempton, who had a career-high 8 rebounds with 4 points and 3 steals in 31 minutes. The Clippers were playing without starting center Benoit Benjamin, who missed the game because of a sprained left ankle.

Said Kempton: "It was fun to play in this type of situation. I know that I'm not going to get a lot of minutes, but I need to be ready when I'm called on."

Kempton stepped in after Kurt Nimphius, who started in place of Benjamin, got into foul trouble. Nimphius, who had 3 points, 6 rebounds and 5 fouls in 21 minutes, missed all four shots he took from the floor.

"Kurt looked as if he couldn't get it into gear," Chaney said.

Said Nimphius: "The refs took me out of the game early."

Said New Jersey Coach Dave Wohl: "I thought the big factor was Tim Kempton. He worked his (bleep) off, hustling and diving for loose balls. You need guys like that. You need guys to fill in when someone (Benjamin) is missing and do the dirty work."

The Clippers outscored the Nets by 12 points at the free-throw line, making 33 of 53 attempts (62.3%). New Jersey made 21 of 26 free throws (80.8%).

"I can't believe how many free throws we missed," Chaney said.

The Clippers' trapping defense helped force New Jersey into 34 turnovers.

The Clippers trailed, 27-25, at the end of the first period, but they outscored New Jersey, 23-17, in the second period to take a 48-44 lead at halftime. It was only the eighth time in 42 games that the Clippers have led after two periods.

The Nets tied it at 63-63 midway through the third period, but Valentine sank a three-point shot with 4:23 left in the period to put Los Angeles ahead to stay. The Clippers led by eight points (76-68) at the end of the third period.

They expanded the lead to 11 points early in the fourth period (80-69). The Nets, however, scored seven straight points to close the gap to four points (80-76) with 7 1/2 minutes left.

But the Clippers then put together a 12-5 spurt to pull away.

"We cheated the owners out of money tonight because we didn't work as hard as we could have," said Buck Williams, who had 17 points and 16 rebounds. "We walked around like zombies who had never played basketball before.

Clippers Notes

Clipper President Alan Rothenberg denied a report that the team is headed for Charlotte, N.C., next season. "There's absolutely no truth to that," Rothenberg said. "The only people that say we're moving to North Carolina are the league office." . . . Benoit Benjamin said he hopes to return to action Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs at the Sports Arena. The Clippers play two games on the road after Friday night's game against San Antonio. Los Angeles plays in Utah Saturday night and travels to Denver next Monday.

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