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Benjamin Gets Steamed but Can't Get Hot : Clipper Center Bothered, Not Only by Loss to Lakers

December 20, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

Coach Pat Riley of the Lakers thought that his team had to neutralize center Benoit Benjamin to beat the Clippers Saturday night.

Benjamin, however, did a pretty good job of taking himself out of the game as the Lakers rolled to their fifth straight win, 108-97, before a crowd of 14,417 at the Sports Arena.

Magic Johnson, who had 30 points in the Lakers' 113-106 win over the Golden State Warriors Thursday night, scored 28 against the Clippers, 19 in the first half .

Benjamin, who didn't have a rebound in the first half, blew up at Coach Gene Shue after Shue benched him with 3 minutes 51 seconds left in the first half. Benjamin got the hook after he didn't contest a shot by Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"Why do you keep taking me out, man?" Benjamin yelled at Shue while storming to the bench. Benjamin kicked the press table and then drop-kicked a plastic container.

Shue waited until halftime to talk with Benjamin.

"There was no misunderstanding between us," Shue said later. "Ben got a little frustrated from coming out and he reacted emotionally.

"Let's face it, Benoit has a lot of things to learn. He's a very young person, and he also has to learn how to become a professional."

Benjamin, who started the second half, didn't have much to say about the incident.

"What's new?" Benjamin asked reporters who cornered him after the game. "It doesn't matter to you guys what happened. You just want to blow some . . . out of proportion. It's between me and Gene.

"I ain't got nothing to say. Go talk to Gene. My side is of no significance to you guys."

The Lakers got Benjamin into foul trouble early, and he almost had no impact on the game, scoring just 11 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 31 minutes. He didn't have an offensive rebound and blocked only 2 shots.

"I've seen him have some awesome games," Riley said of Benjamin. "I'd take him in a minute. We wanted to take him out of the game. We didn't want to give him a chance to get started. That's the kind of respect I have for him.

Riley refused to criticize Benjamin for his temper tantrum.

"He (Benjamin) was a little upset (after being benched). But I saw Kareem kick over a water cooler in Utah once."

The Lakers seem to have gotten back into sync after beating the Boston Celtics last week, even though forward James Worthy isn't fully healthy.

Worthy sat out the game because of tendinitis in his left knee. He has missed 5 of 22 games this season, and the Lakers have a 3-2 record without him.

Worthy had 20 points in 30 minutes Thursday night, but he didn't play in the last 6:51 of the game because his knee was bothering him.

"Obviously, my knee isn't 100%, but it's not at the point where it's panic time," Worthy said. "I'm fortunate enough that we have enough time where we can take a look at it."

Worthy said he'll see how he feels at the shootaround this morning before deciding whether he'll play tonight against the Seattle SuperSonics at the Forum.

Michael Cooper replaced Worthy in the starting lineup, Magic Johnson moved to forward and Cooper played guard.

"With James gone, I have to do more things," Johnson said. "James contributes 20 points a game. Mychal Thompson and Michael Cooper played well; they've picked up the slack."

Reggie Williams, the Clippers' rookie forward, couldn't handle Johnson, who had 14 points in the first period.

Williams, who was poked in the right eye by Houston guard Eric (Sleepy) Floyd in the Clippers' 98-92 win over the Rockets Thursday night, didn't seem to be at full strength.

"He (Williams) is going to be a star in this league because he's got a lot of heart," Magic said of Williams. "But he was a little nervous."

The Lakers (16-6) have beaten the Clippers 8 consecutive times and have also won 18 of 20 games from the Clippers since the move from San Diego in 1984.

The Lakers beat the Clippers by 29 points the first time they met this season.

"We're improving, but the Lakers are too good for us," Shue said. "Even though Worthy wasn't with them, they still have an impressive team."

Said Riley: "I don't care what anyone says, they're downright impressive. Gene (Shue) is doing a marvelous job."

Clipper-Laker Notes

Clipper forward Michael Cage got an early wakeup call Saturday morning. "My Dad woke me up at 7 to show me the stories on me in The Times and the Herald. It was just like high school." Cage led the Clippers with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Clipper guard Mike Woodson added 19 points, and Quintin Dailey came off the bench to score 18. Guard Byron Scott had 18 points for the Lakers, and Mychal Thompson added 17. A.C. Green had 12 rebounds to lead the Lakers in that department. . . . The Clippers play the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at the Sports Arena. The Lakers play the Seattle SuperSonics tonight at 7:30 at the Forum. . . . Injured Clipper forward Joe Wolf said he hopes to return to action by Jan. 1. Wolf underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. . . . Injured Laker forward Billy Thompson missed the game because of food poisoning.

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