The Atlanta Hawks ran away from the Clippers, 90-79, Tuesday night at the Sports Arena.
However, the Clippers were able to turn the Hawks' showtime fast break into slow time with a harassing, pressure defense.
The Clippers' offense hasn't caught up with the defense yet, which is why they sputtered in the second half, scoring just 37 points. Los Angeles shot 22.2% in the third quarter, hitting only 4 of 18 shots.
"It was just one of those days where we couldn't get the ball in the hole," said Clipper guard Quintin Dailey, who hit just 2 of 10 shots. "Some days you fall out of bed and it just isn't right.
"We held them under 100. If I had hit a few shots it might have been different."
Some fans in the crowd 9,245, who weren't already on the freeway or in the parking lot during garbage time, took out their frustration on center Benoit Benjamin after the Clippers (6-10) lost their second consecutive game.
Benjamin, who hit just 3 of 9 shots, was booed when he left the game with 1 minute 14 seconds left in the fourth period. He scored only six points and had only four rebounds in 34 minutes.
Benjamin responded to the boos by laughing and sticking out his tongue as he strolled to the sidelines.
"It's the same old L.A. fans," Benjamin said. "No matter how many good games you play, if you have one bad game, they boo you.
"I don't give a . . . . I'm going to hold my head up high. I'm not going to let the fans upset me."
Said Clipper Coach Gene Shue: "Ben has played some really good games for us this year. He did not have a good game tonight."
Said backup center Earl Cureton, who had as many rebounds (4) in 13 minutes as Benjamin had in 34: "You're supposed to go with your strength at the end. Ben is our starting center. You go with your money players. Sometimes it works in a positive way; sometimes it works in a negative way."
Benjamin wasn't alone in poor shooting as the Clippers shot just 38.3% from the field, hitting 31 of 81 shots.
Guard Mike Woodson made only 3 of 12 shots, and rookie swingman Reggie Williams was 5 for 14. Williams had to sit out most of the third quarter after complaining of dizziness. Williams will be examined by team doctors today.
As poorly as the Clippers shot from the floor, they were even worse at the free-throw line, making only 16 of 28 free throws, a pathetic 57.1%.
Forward Michael Cage, who led the Clippers with 18 points and 14 rebounds, continued to struggle at the free-throw line, hitting just 4 of 10 free throws.
The Hawks (11-5) sputtered but still managed to win their fifth straight.
"We have a lot of rusty people who haven't practiced for a while," Hawk Coach Mike Fratello said. "John Koncak just had a 12 1/2-hour operation to realign his jaw and correct an overbite, and he looked a little rusty."
Fratello praised the Clippers, saying: "Obviously they are playing very well and executing, Gene is doing a good job. The bottom line is (the Clippers) compete."
Forward Dominique Wilkins, who had missed two straight games with a foot injury, returned to action against the Clippers.
Wilkins, who thrilled the fans with an array of spectacular dunks, had 10 points and 6 assists in 34 minutes off the bench, but he looked a little rusty, hitting just 5 of 15 shots.
"The foot is coming along fine," Wilkins said. "It didn't slow me down. We slowed ourselves down. We got too comfortable when we had a 15-point lead."
Forward Kevin Willis led Atlanta with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Glenn (Doc) Rivers added 15 points and passed off for 9 assists.
There was an ugly incident between Cage and Atlanta forward Antoine Carr with 4:11 left in the first half.
Carr clotheslined Cage as he was driving to the basket and then grabbed Cage by the head as he was falling down. Cage spiked the ball high in the air and went after Carr.
They exchanged a few punches before they were separated by their teammates. Cage drew a technical foul for spiking the ball and Carr got a personal foul.
Said Cage: "He took a swing at my head, and I didn't like it. I felt it was a flagrant foul. He banged me in the back of the head. I hate to think what it would have done to me."
Cage would have been ejected from the game had he intentionally thrown the ball at Carr.
"I spiked it right in front of me. I wasn't trying to hit him." Said Cage.
The incident seemed to fire up the Clippers, who trailed by just five points, 47-42, at halftime.
The Clippers have come back to earth after winning two straight games last week.
And unless they start executing on offense and shooting better, they may have trouble coming out of their current slump.
"We just don't have enough offensive power to win these games," Shue said. "What does us in is our offense. We just don't have enough firepower to win with our style.
"You're supposed to be good at it. We are not good. We are what we are. I know where we are weak. Eventually we'll get there."
Shue said the only way to keep the Hawks from running away from the Clippers was to slow down their fast break. And his plan worked to perfection in the first quarter as the Clippers used a trapping, pressing defense to force Atlanta into a halfcourt game. Atlanta had 10 turnovers in the first half.
Wilkins, who had sat out two games with a foot injury, returned to action, although he didn't start. Cliff Livingston started in place of Wilkins, who entered the game with 5:47 left in the first quarter and the Hawks leading, 14-9.
Dominique got off to an embarrassing start as he missed a dunk off the fast break.
He made up for it, however, by keying a 6-0 second-quarter mini-spurt that gave the Hawks a short-lived 10-point lead in the second period.
The 79 points was the Clippers' lowest output in 141 games, since a 90-77 loss to Washington on Jan. 13, 1986. On defense, the Clippers have held opponents under 100 points in 10 of 16 games and 9 of the last 11.