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Clippers Beat Nuggets, but Roberts Is Ejected

April 11, 1993|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fighting to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets, 118-101, before 14,534 at the Sports Arena on Saturday night.

Clipper center Stanley Roberts was ejected for fighting with Denver forward Tom Hammonds with 1:54 remaining in the first half. Roberts swung at Hammonds--who had elbowed him in the chest underneath the Clipper basket--at midcourt. Both benches emptied as teammates rushed to separate them.

"He came at me, and there's nothing you can do but defend yourself," Hammonds said. "Fortunately, he missed and I connected."

Hammonds said he had accidentally hit Roberts.

"There was contact made," Hammonds said. "I hit him in the stomach and I guess he thought it was intentional. I'm not a dirty player. What happened was unintentional."

Roberts, who leads the NBA with 15 disqualifications this season, picked up a folding chair and hurled it to the floor as he was leaving the court. He might be suspended for the Clippers' next game, Monday night against the Phoenix Suns at the Sports Arena.

"I'll probably get one because I provoked it," he said.

Asked what triggered the fight, Roberts said: "(Hammonds) ran all the way across the floor and elbowed me in the side."

Although Roberts was the only Clipper ejected, his teammates were equally aggressive.

Clipper forward Danny Manning, who had a team-high 21 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots, exchanged words with Denver center Dikembe Mutombo after Manning was called for an elbowing foul on Mutombo with 6:59 left in the third quarter.

Ken Norman and Ron Harper each scored 20 points and guard Mark Jackson had 17 points and 12 assists as the Clippers ended a two-game losing streak and reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to four. Any combination of Clipper victories or Golden State losses will put the Clippers in the playoffs.

The Clippers (37-38) have a two-game lead over the Lakers (34-39) for the seventh playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Clippers have seven regular-season games left, including four home games, while the Lakers have nine games left, including four home games.

But the way the Lakers have been playing, they might have trouble holding off the Nuggets (32-43) and the Warriors (32-42) for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

After losing 25 of their first 35 games this season, the Nuggets have gotten back into playoff contention by winning 22 of their last 40 games.

"We have more confidence and we're working a whole lot harder," said guard Chris Jackson, who had a game-high 23 points against the Clippers. "We realize that we're close (to making the playoffs), but we don't want to put much focus on that. We just want to continue to grow as a team and if we get to the playoffs, fine."

Can the Nuggets catch the Lakers, who have lost six consecutive games?

Denver has seven games left, including four at home. The Nuggets will play two games against the Dallas Mavericks, who have the worst record in the NBA, but they will end the season by playing host to the Phoenix Suns.

"I think we have a great chance," Jackson said. "We don't even really talk playoffs, really. We just want to improve."

Clipper Note

Denver guard Robert Pack, a former USC star, suffered a sprained left ankle when he landed awkwardly while going for a loose ball 20 seconds into the second quarter. . . . The Nuggets activated forward/center Robert Werdann from the injured list and put guard Bryant Stith on the injured list. Werdann had been on the injured list since March 31 because of back spasms. Stith suffered a broken bone in his right hand during Denver's 102-94 victory over Minnesota last Sunday.

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