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Benjamin Wakes Up, So Do Clippers, 101-95

February 11, 1988|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

What's gotten into Benoit Benjamin?

The Clipper center might as well have stayed at home during a 106-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix Tuesday night because his heart didn't seem to be in the game.

Benjamin, however, had a change of heart for Wednesday night's rematch at the Sports Arena.

Benjamin was an intimidating force in the middle as the Clippers ended a seven-game losing streak with a 101-95 victory before 5,670 fans.

"Oh, it's nice to win," Clipper Coach Gene Shue said after seeing his team win its first game in 21 days. "It's very difficult if you keep losing and losing."

Benjamin scored 17 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked 8 shots to break out of his own seven-game slump. It was the first time he had scored more than 12 points in the last seven games.

"I thought Ben played a good game. He did a good job blocking shots," Shue said. "I thought he was a factor offensively."

Shue had a private meeting with Benjamin before the game.

"It wasn't related to last night," Shue said. "I'm going to be having meetings more often with the players."

Benjamin said the meeting with Shue had a positive impact.

"It wasn't anything negative," Benjamin said. "It was all positive criticism. It was nothing negative. He told me that I need to be more active on offense. I took it all in stride."

Clipper forward Michael Cage, who had 15 points and 17 rebounds, noticed that Benjamin had a different attitude Wednesday night.

"He was a big key to the victory," Cage said of Benjamin. "He gave us that added edge."

Guard Quintin Dailey, who scored 33 points Tuesday night, came off the bench to score 24 points, hitting 10 of 18 shots. He also had 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Guard Larry Drew had 13 points and 9 assists.

Los Angeles (11-33) needs just one win in the final 37 games of the season to equal its victory total of last season. The Clippers finished with a 12-70 record last season.

Dailey said he's going to celebrate after the Clippers win their next game.

"I can't wait. We're one game away from being national champions," Dailey said. "I've got a 30-inch chest, but it's going to be 50 inches (after the next victory)."

The Clippers built a 21-point lead against Phoenix in the third quarter and led by 20 early in the fourth.

No lead, however, is safe when the Clippers are playing.

Los Angeles blew a 21-point lead against the Suns in their last meeting at the Sports Arena and wound up losing by 19, a swing of 40 points.

"That was a great game, but we can't do that every time," Sun Coach John Wetzel said. "We were a little out of sync tonight, and we shot poorly (34%).

Shue, who saw his team blow a 14-point lead Tuesday night in Phoenix, didn't feel the game was safely in hand until it was over.

The Suns outscored the Clippers, 35-21, in the final period and cut the lead to six points, 99-93, with 35 seconds left as Eddie Johnson scored five straight points, hitting a three-point shot and adding a pair of free throws.

But the Clippers held on as Benjamin made one of two free throws with 34 seconds left, and Dailey made a free throw with 26 seconds left to seal the win.

Johnson scored a game-high 33 points to lead the Suns, who have lost 10 of their last 12.

Clipper Notes

Rookie Ken Norman replaced Joe Wolf at forward in the Clippers' starting lineup. Wolf strained his left hamstring in Tuesday night's game. . . . The Clipper guards played well in the win over the Suns. Mike Woodson scored 18 points and point guard Larry Drew had 17 points and 14 assists. . . . The Clippers play the Houston Rockets Friday night at the Sports Arena in a game that will be nationally televised by TBS.

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