YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Nothing Changes for Clippers

Pro basketball: Fitch is ejected and they lose to Spurs, 115-106, after referee changes a call.


SAN ANTONIO — Clipper Coach Bill Fitch was livid.

Two minutes into the third quarter of Wednesday night's 115-106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, referee Mike Smith changed a call by veteran official Jack Nies, who had awarded the Clippers the ball underneath their basket after center Stanley Roberts had apparently knocked the ball out of bounds off Spur center David Robinson.

But after the Alamodome crowd of 13,739 booed in protest, Smith changed the call and awarded the ball to the Spurs.

As Fitch charged onto the court to request an explanation from Nies, he bumped into Smith, who called two technical fouls on him and ejected him. It was the 39th ejection in Fitch's 23-year NBA coaching career and his second in two years with the Clippers.

"You can't do that [change a call]," Fitch said. "At least that's what I was trying to tell them and I ended up sitting in here [the locker room.]

"I've never had one like that. What I was really trying to get was a jump ball or why we didn't have a jump ball. I was taking a walk to talk to Jack.

"I've got a young basketball team and you can't keep getting calls changed. I tell my guys to stay away from the officials, but when you see a crowd turn a call like that it's not a good situation for your team to see that. I don't make a habit of riding the officials, but from what I saw I'd do it all over again. I'd just watch where the other guy was walking. I was as surprised when he walked into me as he was when I walked into him."

Fitch's ejection seemed to inspire the Clippers, who have lost 14 consecutive games here.

With assistant coach Jim Brewer taking over for Fitch, the Clippers, who trailed, 90-77, in the fourth quarter, used a late run to cut the deficit to 96-90 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game.

"The ejection caused us to keep our heads in the game and pay attention," Clipper swingman Charles Outlaw said.

But Spur guard Avery Johnson, who had a season-high 26 points, scored 12 points in the final quarter as the Spurs (28-13) won their 10th consecutive game against the Clippers (16-27), who have lost seven of their last eight games overall and are still one shy of last season's victory total.

With center David Robinson, getting only 15 points and 10 rebounds after getting into foul trouble, guard Vinny Del Negro added 23 points for the Spurs.

Fitch didn't play slumping forward Lamond Murray, who had missed 13 of 14 shots in his last two games, in the first half.

Murray played seven minutes in the second half, missing the only shot he took. He has shot 19.4% in his last six games, missing 25 of 31 shots.

"I thought we were doing so much shaking and baking, running centers in and out because of foul trouble, that that was enough and we didn't need him," Fitch said. "I told him at halftime that I'd play him. It wasn't like I was sitting him down because he had a hot hand. Sometimes if a guy is struggling with his game, a little pine time doesn't hurt him.'

With center Brian Williams sidelined for the second consecutive game because of a strained left arch, Roberts started again.

But Roberts, who set a team record for fouls in 1992-93 and fouled out of an NBA-high 15 games that season, scored only five points in 16 minutes before fouling out for the second time in 16 games this season.

Clipper Notes

Guard Pooh Richardson had a season-high 24 points for the Clippers, making nine of 13 shots, including four of five three-pointers. Rookie guard Brent Barry, who had averaged 17 points in his last two games, had 21 points.

Los Angeles Times Articles