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An Awful Start but a Victorious Ending

October 22, 1997|CHRIS BAKER

The Clippers unveiled their splashy new red, white and blue basketball floor at the Sports Arena for Tuesday night's exhibition game against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Clippers looked as if they should be playing instead in a pick-up game on an asphalt court with chain link nets as they shot only 20% and trailed by 14 points at the end of the first quarter. But they displayed the same determination that earned them their first playoff berth in four seasons last season year by embarrassing the Hawks in the second half.

Trailing by nine points in the third quarter, the Clippers outscored the Hawks, 26-3, during a 9:15 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters to end a four-game losing streak, 90-79, before 4,625.

"We were dead gone and buried," Clipper Coach Bill Fitch said.

Guard Brent Barry, who was benched eight minutes into the first quarter after missing his first four shots, made five of seven shots and scored 15 points in the third-quarter comeback.

Swingman Lorenzen Wright, who started 51 games at center last season, finished with a team-high 16 points and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes.

Forward Lamond Murray, who has looked good during camp, had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Starting center Stojko Vrankovic, acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves for center Stanley Roberts, looked overmatched against Hawk center Dikembe Mutombo.

Forward Loy Vaught, who missed the last two games with back spasms, replaced Vrankovic with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Vrankovic finished with only three points and nine rebounds.

Swingman Eric Piatkowski, a disappointment in his first three seasons, scored 14 points.

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