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It Couldn't Last and Doesn't: Clippers Lose : Woodson's Last Shot Misses and Phoenix Escapes With 97-96 Victory

December 07, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

So much for Clippermania.

The Clippers' two-game winning streak ended with a 97-96 loss to the Phoenix Suns Sunday night before 5,467 fans at the Sports Arena.

The Clippers, however, came within a jump shot of beating the Suns.

Guard Mike Woodson, who scored 30 points for Los Angeles, missed a jumper which would have been the game-winning shot, from inside the three-point line with three seconds left.

Clipper Coach Gene Shue hurled his clipboard at the press table in disgust after Woodson's miss.

"It was a good shot," Woodson said. "I had a good look at the basket. It felt good and it looked good. But that doesn't mean anything. The bottom line is that we lost the game."

Woodson, who was being harassed by Phoenix guard Jay Humphries, admitted that he may have rushed his shot because he didn't realize how much time was left. He had time to work his way closer to the basket for a better shot.

"After I shot the ball I looked up and there was still three seconds left on the clock," Woodson said. "I wasn't aware of (the clock). All I knew was that the clock was running down."

Shue said he wanted Woodson or forward Michael Cage to take the final shot.

"The last shot was a play set up for Cage or Woodson," Shue said. "But Cage was too well covered. We had the ball in the hands of the right player (Woodson). He was hot all night. We didn't have any timeouts left."

Center James Edwards grabbed the rebound and the Suns (6-8) won their first road game of the season.

Said Edwards: "I saw (Larry) Drew drive to the basket, I thought Drew was going to shoot, but he passed it back out to Woodson and he missed it."

Said Phoenix Coach John Wetzel: "We did a good job on the last play by making them shoot it outside. We thought they would go to Woodson, or maybe dump it inside. I didn't want to double up inside because that would free up Drew or Woodson.

"Hopefully, we are over that winless on-the-road feeling."

The Clippers, who trailed by six points with 1:33 left in the fourth quarter, looked as if they were going to pull it out. But they missed too many key free throws down the stretch.

With the Clippers trailing, 97-91, Cage cut it to four with a slam and then made a good defensive play at the other end when he stripped Alvan Adams of the ball underneath the Sun basket. Center Benoit Benjamin followed with a slam to trim the Suns' lead to two.

The Suns called timeout with 47 seconds left, but Cage came up with another steal, off Phoenix guard Jeff Hornacek. Cage was fouled by Larry Nance as he was driving to the basket.

Cage missed the first free throw, but hit the second to cut the lead to one point with 25 seconds remaining.

The Suns could have wrapped up the game at the foul line, however. Humphries missed two free throws with 10 seconds left after he was fouled by guard Larry Drew.

Cage had a great night rebounding (19) but a horrible night at the free-throw line, missing 8 of 12. The Clippers missed 15 of 40 free-throw attempts. They were 7 for 14 in the final period.

"It was really frustrating," Cage said of his missed free throws. "I thought I hurt the team at the free-throw line, which was eventually our downfall.

"I just didn't feel comfortable shooting free throws. I've been very uncomfortable at the free-throw line all season. I'll obviously have to spend more time shooting free throws in practice."

Shue agreed.

"We did what we could to win," he said. "We certainly had our problems at the free-throw line. It was clearly the difference in the game.

"It was such a negative. When you don't hit your free throws in a close game that's trouble."

The Suns managed to win without star guard Walter Davis, who sat out the game with a back injury.

Nance led the Suns with 26 points and 11 rebounds and Edwards added 17 points.

The Suns are hoping that Davis will return next week. He'll be re-examined Thursday. Bernard Thompson replaced Davis in the lineup. He had a career-high 23 points against the New York Knicks in his first start, but scored just 7 against the Clippers

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