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Misfortune Gazes Upon the Clippers Once Again

Pro basketball: Cavaliers jump to early lead and run away with easy 100-79 victory.

March 22, 1998|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lamond Murray was the lucky one.

Forced to serve a one-game suspension for fighting earlier in the week, the Clipper forward had no part in Saturday's night 100-79 debacle at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in front of a crowd of 12,323 at the Sports Arena.

Murray's teammates weren't so lucky.

They had to suffer through a loss that was far worse than the score indicates. By the time the final buzzer had mercifully sounded, both coaches had emptied their benches, a total of 22 players getting into a game that had more garbage time than quality time after the Clippers got blown out in the first quarter and never got back into the game.

The Clippers were outscored 28-12 in that first quarter, shooting a dismal 18.2% from the floor (four for 22).

"If you get Webster's Dictionary out," Clipper Coach Bill Fitch said, "and look up ugly, you'll see a condensed picture of that quarter."

The last time the Clippers were on this court, they scored a team-record 152 points in beating the Toronto Raptors. For a while Saturday, it appeared the Clippers might not score 52.

It took four minutes and two seconds, 12 Cavalier points, five missed shots of their own and two timeouts before the Clippers scored any points at all, guard Eric Piatkowski finally breaking the drought with a layup.

That put the Clippers on the scoreboard, but not in the game.

They were down, 18-2 and 22-4, as they struggled through the first 12 minutes.

Things weren't much better by halftime. The Clippers trailed, 49-30, and had only improved their shooting percentage a bit, getting it up to 22.5%.

The Clippers also scored only 30 points in a half in their last game, a loss to Seattle last Wednesday. But there was no way of checking Saturday night to determine if there has ever been a lower scoring half in Clipper history. According to a team official, that record had been lost when the team moved to Los Angeles. If you're going to lose a record, that's probably a good one to have disappear.

Ultimately, the Clippers wound up shooting 32.9% from the field (28 for 85), less than half the club-record 69.3% the Clippers shot in scoring 152 points against the Raptors.

The individual numbers tell the story. Center Isaac Austin was two for 12 from the floor, Piatkowski five for 13, James Robinson three for 11 and Rodney Rogers five for 11.

Two moments in particular indicate the kind of night it was for the home team.

On one, Lorenzen Wright had the ball in his hands at the Cavaliers' end of the court and Austin streaking down all alone toward his own basket. But Wright threw a high pass that sailed out of Austin's hands into the crowd.

Then there was the Clipper frustration under the Cavalier basket when Shawn Kemp, who led all scorers with 27 points in 33 minutes, pulled down four consecutive offensive rebounds after misses before finally stuffing the ball through the hoop.

In their locker room, the Cavaliers were quick to point out another area of play in which they excelled Saturday night.

"I don't think there is a team out here [West Coast] that plays better defense than we do," said Cleveland guard Bob Sura, "and that created a lot of problems for the Clippers."

For the Clippers, the final month of the season is a battle for respectability.

But, it you look up respectability in the dictionary, you won't find the Clippers' team photo there.

Not yet.

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