YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

All Downhill for Clippers After Tip-Off : NBA: They lose home opener, 108-91, to Atlanta, a team they beat twice in the exhibition season.


The first caller to Ralph Lawler's radio show before the Clippers' home opener against the Atlanta Hawks wanted to know, "When are the Clippers going to stop rebuilding?"

Good question.

Opening their second decade in Los Angeles, the Clippers find themselves back where they started when they moved here from San Diego in 1984.

They had a nifty pregame laser-and-fireworks show and jazz musician Branford Marsalis played the national anthem, but the action on the court wasn't as exciting as the Clippers fell behind by 21 points 5 1/2 minutes into the third quarter and lost for the third time in as many games, 108-91, Thursday night before an announced crowd of 8,188 at the Sports Arena.

This might have been their best chance to win this month under new Coach Bill Fitch.

The Clippers, who won only three of eight exhibition games, beat the Hawks twice during the exhibition season.

Atlanta was winless in its first four games and was still adjusting to Monday's trade that sent forward Kevin Willis and a first-round draft pick to Miami for guard Steve Smith, forward Grant Long and a second-round draft pick.

Stacey Augmon had a game-high 25 points and Smith had 23 points, six rebounds and four assists. Long had 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Clippers, who led the league in turnovers last season and averaged 18.5 turnovers in their first two games, had 20 turnovers. The Clippers shot 31.8% in the first half and trailed, 45-34, at halftime.

Guards Terry Dehere and Pooh Richardson missed 10 of 11 shots in the first half and were outscored, 16-3, by Hawk guards Smith and Mookie Blaylock. Dehere missed five of six shots and Richardson missed all four of his shots.

Richardson got hot in the third quarter, making six of seven shots, including both three-pointers he tried.

Richardson finished with 14 points and five assists and Dehere had seven points, one rebound and five assists.

The Hawks put the Clippers away early, taking a 27-13 first-quarter lead. The Clippers went 7 1/2 minutes without a basket, missing 10 shots in a row before Loy Vaught, who had a team-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, tipped in a jumper by Tony Massenburg.

Fitch, whose team plays three games in four nights, beginning with Saturday's game against the Phoenix Suns at The Pond in Anaheim, said he might alter his starting lineup.

Fitch declined to reveal his place, but rookie center Matt Fish, who outplayed starting center Elmore Spencer, might become a starter. Fish had 10 points and six rebounds; Spencer had one point and three rebounds in 13 minutes.

"There wasn't any one thing in particular; there are just too many holes in the dike," Fitch said. "I don't know who'll start. If I told you who's going to start (Saturday), it wouldn't say much for tomorrow's and the next day's practice."

Rookie forward Lamond Murray, the Clippers' top draft pick, had 12 points and two rebounds.

"That was a better outing than the last time and the last time was a better outing than the first time," Fitch said. "That's the way we have to look at it for the young guys. We've got so many players and so many projects that if you have that many questions and that many young people and they don't have good nights, you're going to have bad nights."

Clipper Notes

Clipper forward Harold Ellis, who was poked in the right eye, will be examined by Dr. Steve August today. . . . Rookie swingman Eric Piatkowski, who averaged 12 minutes in the Clippers' first two games, was the last player that Coach Bill Fitch used, entering the game with 3:02 left. . . . Tony Massenburg, who averaged 12.5 rebounds in last weekend's season-opening losses to the Portland Trail Blazers in Japan, has blended in well since signing a two-year free-agent contract last June. Massenburg, a forward, scored as many points (29) in his first two games with the Clippers as he did in 18 games with San Antonio, Charlotte, Boston and Golden State in 1991-92.

Clippers On-Line

The TimesLink on-line service has team stats, player bios, team history, the '94 season schedule and team notes supplied by the Raiders, as well as a collection of Times feature stories. Sign on and "jump" to keyword "Clippers."

Details on Times electronic services, B4

Los Angeles Times Articles