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Clippers Finally Take Road to Victory, 112-96 : After Losing 21 Straight Away From Home, Los Angeles Beats Suns at Phoenix

November 21, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — Maybe it's time to stop making fun of the Clippers.

They may have been on the road to nowhere last season when they went 12-70, but they're not the laughingstock of the National Basketball Assn. this season.

The Clippers ended a 21-game road losing streak by beating the Phoenix Suns, 112-96, Friday night before 9,464 fans at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

"There are a lot of firsts with the Clippers. It feels terrific to win our first road game," Clipper Coach Gene Shue said. "The players and me were both aware of the 21-game road losing streak, and I'm tickled to death to have broken it tonight."

The Clippers (3-5) closed out last season with 17 consecutive road losses, and they dropped their first four road games this season.

"It's been so long that I don't even remember the last time we won on the road," Clipper guard Larry Drew said.

Said forward Michael Cage, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds: "I never really thought about the streak. I tried to put it behind me."

The last time the Clippers won a road game before Friday night was Feb. 13, when they beat the San Antonio Spurs, 110-96.

The key to the victory was the job that Clipper guards Mike Woodson and Quintin Dailey did on Walter Davis, the Suns' star guard. Davis, the fifth-leading scorer in the NBA with a 26.9 average coming into the game, was held to just 13 points in 33 minutes. Davis made 6 of 14 shots.

"I didn't do it alone," Dailey said. "Woody set the pace. My job was to not let him (Davis) touch the ball. He can beat you by himself. You've got to stay in his face all the time."

Davis said he never got time to settle into the offensive flow of the game.

"Every time I touched the ball, they ran someone at me, and I had to kick it out," Davis said. "When they're doubling like that, you have to pass.

"We didn't play well because they slowed it down. And we didn't shoot well. I think the Clippers are a lot better than they were last year."

The Suns may have more problems than the Clippers.

"The Clippers outplayed us; we didn't take them lightly," said John Wetzel, who replaced John MacLeod as the Sun coach. "It was just one of those nights. Walter was unsettled because they were double-teaming him every time he got the ball."

Guard Jay Humphries was the only Sun who played well, as Phoenix (3-5) had its 12-game home winning streak broken. Humphries, a former star at Inglewood High School, came off the bench to score 20 points in 29 minutes.

"It looked like we came out flat," Humphries said. "When you take a player like Walter Davis out of the game, the other players have to rise to the occasion, and I don't think we did."

Woodson and Dailey were also productive on offense as the Clippers were forced to play without rookie forward Reggie Williams, who was scratched at the last minute because he had the flu.

Woodson scored 21 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.

"It felt great to break the streak," Woodson said. "We've been playing pretty consistent basketball. This road trip was pretty positive even though we only won one of three games.

"We've still got a long way to go. We've got to keep building."

Dailey had his best game of the season, coming off the bench to score a game-high 22 points in 24 minutes.

And rookie Joe Wolf, who replaced Williams in the starting lineup, also had a big game, scoring 17 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.

After trailing, 51-47, at halftime, the Clippers blew away the Suns, 26-8, in the first 6 minutes 24 seconds of the second half to take a 73-59 lead. Woodson had 10 points in the third quarter, and Cage added 9 points. Wolf had 5 rebounds. The Clippers shot 61.9% in the third period, hitting 13 of 21 shots, while the Suns shot 34.8% (8 of 23).

However, the Clippers, who blew a 13-point lead in Wednesday night's 97-87 loss at Dallas, almost let this one get away, too.

The Suns sliced the Clipper lead to 79-78 early in the fourth quarter before Los Angeles put together a 17-5 run to take command. The Clippers led by as many as 23 points before garbage time.

Dailey was the key to the Clippers' fourth-quarter surge, scoring 12 points, including 8 straight free throws. Point guard Darnell Valentine scored 9 of his 12 points in the fourth period.

Clipper Notes

Reggie Williams, who missed the game with the flu, said he hopes to play tonight against the Denver Nuggets at the Sports Arena. The Clippers flew home immediately after the game. . . . Phoenix swingman Eddie Johnson sat out the game with a pulled right calf. . . . Rookie forward Armon Gilliam, who broke his left big toe in the Suns' opener at Portland, had the cast removed from his foot Thursday. He'll be out for at least two more weeks. Larry Nance, who has been sidelined since he broke a bone in his left hand in an exhibition game against the Chicago Bulls Oct. 24, is expected to make his season debut in the Suns' next game Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz.

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