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If It's First Place, It Can't Be Clippers

Pro basketball: Team takes New York Knicks into overtime before falling, 88-81, to lose chance at top spot.

November 09, 1996|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers knew before Friday night's game against the New York Knicks that they would be in first place in the Pacific Division if they won, because the Lakers lost at Toronto.

Although the Clippers, who have finished in last place in the division in two of the last three years, don't keep track of such things, it might have been the latest in a season that they've ever been in first place.

The Clippers displayed the determination of a first-place team, taking the Knicks into overtime before losing, 88-81, before an announced crowd of 13,242 at the Sports Arena.

Trailing 81-77, the Clippers scored three consecutive points to make it 81-80 on a dunk by Charles Outlaw with 2:10 remaining in the five-minute extra period.

But Knick center Patrick Ewing, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds, made a jumper and a free throw to make it 84-80. The Clippers cut it to 84-81 when Outlaw made a free throw with 43 seconds left.

The Clippers, who were outscored, 11-4, in overtime, had a chance to tie it with a three-point shot after Stanley Roberts rebounded a missed layup by Ewing, but Roberts missed a layup and Outlaw missed a follow shot.

The Knicks ended the game by making four consecutive free throws as Ewing made two and John Starks made a pair.

Trailing, 77-68, the Clippers outscored the Knicks, 9-0, in the final 4:42 of regulation to send the game into overtime tied at 77-77.

Roberts, who was held scoreless in the first three quarters after getting into foul trouble, had seven points and Outlaw made two free throws in the rally.

Outlaw, one of the NBA's worst free throw shooters, made the first of two free throws to tie it at 77-77 with 23 seconds left.

The Knicks called time to set up a play, but Scott Brooks lost control of the ball under pressure from Pooh Richardson with 7.8 seconds left.

The Clippers had a chance to win it in regulation but Richardson missed a jumper.

The Clipper reserves played a key role as the Clippers came back from a 10-point deficit, outscoring the Knicks, 22-12, in the final quarter. They also played good defense as the Knicks shot only 19% in the fourth quarter.

With the Clippers trailing, 77-72, Outlaw made a free throw with 2:15 remaining. After Larry Johnson missed a hurried shot with 1:50 left, Roberts made a layup and a free throw after he was fouled by Buck Williams.

After guard John Starks missed a three-point shot on the Knicks' next possession, the Clippers got the rebound and Richardson called time with 1:06 remaining.

Clipper Coach Bill Fitch was furious because he didn't want to use a timeout to give the Knicks time to set up.

The Clippers might have won it if forward Loy Vaught, their most consistent player, had played his normal game.

Vaught, who averaged 13.3 points and 13.3 rebound in the Clippers' first three games, didn't score in the first half as the Clippers trailed by as many as 12 points. He finished with three points and six rebounds, missing all five shots he attempted.

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