SEATTLE — If there is good news in getting blown out, then Saturday night the Clippers thought they had enough headlines to resurface Mt. St. Helens.
Sure, they got tattooed, 116-95, by the Seattle SuperSonics. Sure, they got outscored, 38-18, in the fourth quarter. Agreed, they had one basket in the last 5:03. And yes, they committed six turnovers in the last three minutes.
But look on the bright side, said Coach Gene Shue.
"The game was right there for the taking," he said.
Believe it or not, it really was. With 4:01 to go, the Clippers found themselves down only 98-94 on Benoit Benjamin's three-point play.
After that, the ball seemed to become about as slick as Michael Cage's hair. Not even a season-high 34 points by rookie Reggie Williams could rescue the Clippers, who almost, but not quite, played well enough to win.
Cage walked with the ball on a give-and-go pass from Williams.
"It was kind of high," Cage said.
Nate McMillan scored inside, then Tom Chambers stripped Cage of the ball, and Dale Ellis sped downcourt for a breakaway.
"He made a good defensive play," Cage said.
Suddenly, the SuperSonics were up by eight, 102-94, and after Mike Woodson (who shot 2 for 8) missed on a drive, Alton Lister's monstrous dunk put the Clippers away for good.
Xavier McDaniel, who started quickly and then disappeared in a funk for a while, finished strong with 35 points and 14 rebounds. But even McDaniel was less than satisfied with the relative closeness of the game until the last few minutes.
"I really wanted to blow these guys out," he said. "We should blow them out."
Shue was probably right when he said the final score didn't reflect the way the Clippers played, because up until the four-minute mark, the Clippers were still lurking close by the SuperSonics.
Perhaps part of the reason was due to a none-to-subtle change in style that Shue is overseeing. Are you ready for this? The Clippers are now a running team. Not always, but often enough to take advantage of Williams.
Reggie played 38 minutes and made 13 of 20 shots. He also took down 8 rebounds to trail only Cage among his Clipper teammates. Cage led with 14, which matched Lister's total.
But it was Williams' shooting that drew raves.
"He was unconscious," Seattle Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.
Said Shue: "He was sensational. He was really on fire."
Williams showed no reluctance to shoot in the first half, which ended with the Clippers holding a surprising 54-50 lead.
By halftime, Williams had already sent 24 points through the hoop, 18 of them in the first quarter when the Clippers made it known that they were in an up-tempo mood.
Shue also made his mood known early. He pulled four starters at once and substituted everyone except Williams, who stayed on the court to end the first period with a rainbow three-pointer.
Williams, playing small forward and shooting from the wing, hadn't scored more than 15 points in a game since he piled up 33 against San Antonio in the sixth game of the season.
"I've been raised in that (fast-break) type of game," Williams said. "That's my style."
About the only thing he had trouble with was his free-throw shooting. One of his attempts was wide right and off the glass. He also botched a 3-on-1 fast break and shot up an airball.
But outside of that, the Clippers ought to have felt pretty good about themselves. Even the defense was working.
McDaniel scored Seattle's first nine points, but the Clippers stopped allowing too many easy shots inside. McDaniel had two points in the last 9:23 of the half.
In fact, the SuperSonics could manage only 12 points in nearly 10 minutes to close out the second quarter and they wouldn't have had that many if not for a pair of three-point bombs by Ellis, who led Seattle with 12 first-half points.
Of course, all that changed in the last four minutes opf the game, when Seattle outscored the Clippers, 18-1. Other than that--as well as the final score--the Clippers thought the news was good.