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Clippers Leave the Spurs With Sinking Feeling

Pro basketball: Martin becomes starter and helps end a four-game skid in 97-94 victory over San Antonio.

December 13, 1996|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clipper Coach Bill Fitch calls guard Darrick Martin "Tiny" because he's only 5 feet 11.

But Martin had a big impact on the Clippers.

Starting at point guard in place of Pooh Richardson, who sprained his right ankle Tuesday night against Dallas, Martin had nine points and six assists as the Clippers ended a four-game losing streak with a 97-94 victory over the San Antonio Spurs before an announced crowd of 11,349 at the Sports Arena Thursday night.

Richardson was impressed with Martin.

"I think he ran the club pretty well," Richardson said. "He did a great job."

Martin ran the offense to perfection, getting everyone involved as the four other starters scored in double figures.

Forwards Loy Vaught and Rodney Rogers had 16 points each, guard Malik Sealy had 14 points and center Kevin Duckworth had 10 points.

"That's my job, to push it and be a creator," Martin said. "That's my job, to go up and down the floor. I've been doing it since I was three years old, so it's second nature to me."

The Clippers, who led by 12 points in the final quarter, were outscored, 20-9, as the Spurs cut it to 93-92 on a three-point play by center David Robinson.

Fitch, whose team hasn't maintained leads, ripped off his jacket and raised his arms to encourage his team to play defense.

But the Clippers held on, scoring four consecutive points to defeat the Spurs for the second time in as many games this season.

After Vaught made a jump shot with 27 seconds left, the Clippers regained possession when Vernon Maxwell was called for traveling and Martin set up Terry Dehere for a layup to give the Clippers a 97-92 lead with 8.3 seconds left.

Robinson, who missed the first 18 games because of a back injury, had 20 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes in his second game.

"He's not back yet," Spur Coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's going to take some time before he's doing what he usually did in the past, but he's on the right path. He's getting better every day."

But Duckworth did a good job of defending him.

"Duck bailed us out," Fitch said. "I've been telling him this should be your week. Ducks are great in wet weather. I told him to lean on him and check that back out, but it was David who got physical. He created a lot of contact back there."

Robinson, who had 12 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes in the first half, didn't start the third quarter. Dominique Wilkins started the third quarter in place of Robinson and scored 10 of his 19 points as the Spurs outscored the Clippers, 18-8, to tie the score, 64-64.

But the Clippers ended the third quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 75-66 lead on Dehere's three-point shot at the buzzer.

The Terry and Barry show--guards Dehere and Brent Barry--helped the Clippers build a 16-point second-quarter lead when Barry set up Dehere for a dunk with a pinpoint pass.

They teamed up again in the final quarter before Fitch pulled Barry after he shot an airball.

Popovich, who took over after firing Bob Hill on Tuesday, is winless in two games. Popovich, a former coach at Pomona-Pitzer, is a first-time NBA head coach.

Popovich, an assistant coach under Don Nelson with the Golden State Warriors, said he hasn't thought about hiring Nelson to coach the Spurs next season.

"I have no idea what's going to happen in the future," Popovich said. "Right now Don Nelson is very content to look at the beach, golf and smoke cigars and enjoy Hawaii. At the moment, he tells me he has no interest in coming back into the league."

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