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Seattle Deals Clippers a Fifth Loss : Pro basketball: Team's worst start in a decade continues as Los Angeles can't match Supersonics' strength off the bench in a 115-90 defeat.

November 14, 1994|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TACOMA, Wash. — A Seattle disc jockey was giving away tickets to Sunday night's Seattle SuperSonics-Clippers game at the Tacoma Dome.

Instead of giving them to the first caller, as normally is the case in radio promotions, the tickets went to the last caller because the SuperSonics were playing the Clippers, the favorite to finish last in the Pacific Division.

And the Clippers looked like a last-place team, losing for the fifth time in as many games, 115-90, before a crowd of 16,352.

Off to the worst start since the club moved to Los Angeles in 1984 and the second-worst start in franchise history, the Clippers trailed by as many as 30 points in the final period.

"Losing takes a lot out of you, it really does," said forward Loy Vaught, who made 11 of 12 shots and had 23 points and nine rebounds. "We're trying to handle it well. But when you're losing, sometimes you start bickering. We're trying to keep in mind that we're very young and we're new to each other.

"We're going to start winning. This is tough, but it can't go on forever."

The NBA's worst free-throw-shooting team, the Clippers, who shot 64.4% from the line in their first four games, Sunday made only 21 of 41 free throws (51.2%).

Clipper Coach Bill Fitch sighed as he studied the statistics sheet after the game. Fitch waved off the first two questions until a reporter asked about his team's poor free-throw shooting.

"Somebody ask the question," Fitch said. "I thought we ought to clear the air right away. It (free-throw shooting) was terrible.

"We talk about carrying a lot of things from practice to the games. Our free-throw shooting in practice has been very good. Some of the guys that are missing these free throws have shot well in practice."

Clipper forward Harold Ellis made only three of 10, and center Elmore Spencer missed all four of his free throws.

"I guess it is confidence and being in shape," Ellis said. "When you get tired, you don't shoot as well. I missed a lot of free throws. Everybody missed a lot of free throws. Maybe if we had all those free throws back . . . "

But free-throw shooting wasn't the Clippers' only problem.

Seattle's reserves outscored the Clipper reserves, 45-22. SuperSonic reserve swingman Vincent Askew had a career-high 20 points, four rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes, and reserve guard Sarunas Marciulionis had 15 points, two steals, two assists and two rebounds.

"They wear you down," Fitch said of Seattle's bench. "The second half, when we went to the bench, it was even more obvious that the rookies (Lamond Murray, Eric Piatkowski and Matt Fish) aren't ready to play against the veteran players. But the only way you find that out and the way you get them ready to play against the veteran players is to throw them out there.

"I wasn't waving the white flag (when he played the three rookies at the same time in the fourth quarter), but it really caved in then and we just left them out there to get their growing pains in.

"But Seattle is a good ball club. If they smell the blood, they take advantage of it."

The SuperSonics smelled blood in the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers, 10-0, in a three-minute spurt midway through the period to take control of the game.

All-star forward Shawn Kemp scored 17 points and had 11 rebounds and Detlef Schrempf scored 18 points as Seattle won for the third time in four games.

The Clippers, the NBA's third-lowest scoring team, looked cohesive on offense in the first half, shooting a season-high 50% as Vaught hit nine of 10 shots and scored 18 points to keep it close (58-49).

But Vaught scored only five points in the second half, making both shots he took.

"I think Loy got tired," Fitch said. "The one thing he's weak at is that he doesn't play well tired. Great players, somewhere along the line, have to learn to play at the top their game when fatigue sets in because that's when the team needs them. . . . He came off the floor and I hit him and it was like hitting a sponge, he was so wet. He was playing tired."

Clipper Notes

The worst start in franchise history was when the San Diego Clippers opened the 1982-83 season with seven consecutive losses. . . . Center Elmore Spencer, who has struggled since averaging 10.5 points in the Clippers' season-opening games in Japan, had two points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. . . . The Clippers, who led the league in turnovers last season, had 20 turnovers, which the SuperSonics converted into 23 points.

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