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Chaney Is Upset by Clippers’ First Defeat : Coach Cites Team’s Lack of Hard Play as Rockets Win, 137-115

Times Staff Writer

The Clippers, undefeated no longer but still unpredictable, will insist they did not have a preconceived notion that this was going to be the night on which they finally would lose their first game of the season.

But after watching the Houston Rockets thoroughly thump the Clippers, 137-115, Thursday night before 13,826 fans at the Summit, Coach Don Chaney had a suspicion that his players might have figured five straight wins to open the season was good enough for a franchise that has become accustomed only to losing streaks.

Accepting defeat after it happens is one thing, but Chaney was particularly upset because Clipper players seemingly had left their confidence and sustained effort in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes, when you have a winning streak, you program yourself that eventually you’ll lose,” Chaney said. “We did not program ourselves that we could actually win 10 or 15 games in a row. I felt our players were content being 5-0. “I was content, too. But if you have to lose a streak, you should lose it by fighting it out. I’ve always gone by that premise. We didn’t play hard, and I was really disappointed by that.”

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Maybe the Clippers figured that if they had to lose, they might as well lose big, if for no other reason than to get all that poor play out of their system. Naturally, Chaney hopes the Clippers can now return to the manner in which they played in the first five games, because Thursday’s performance was not at all pretty.

Actually, the Clippers were in the game for the first eight minutes. Then, the slide began and it came with the power and speed of an avalanche. By halftime, the Rockets had a 65-45 lead and were well on their way to crushing the Clippers.

The second half proved to be little more than a display of dunks and fast-break baskets by the Rockets’ Ralph Sampson (22 points), Lewis Lloyd (21) and Akeem Olajuwon (19).

About the only two Clipper players who weren’t embarrassed were Derek Smith and Cedric Maxwell.

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Smith scored 35 points, and even though most came after the outcome had been decided, his offensive production was nonetheless impressive.

Maxwell couldn’t be blamed for this one because he didn’t suit up due to a bout with the stomach flu.

Though strictly an innocent bystander Thursday night, Maxwell also could sense that the Clippers weren’t exactly bubbling over with confidence before going against the Rockets (5-2).

“Even if you think it (the streak) is coming to an end, you still don’t want it to end like this,” Maxwell said. “Confidencewise, this team is taking it only a step at a time. Like little kids. Any deviation from winning and it takes longer to put the pieces back together.”

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Houston outrebounded the Clippers, 51-40. Sampson and Olajuwon combined for 24 rebounds, three more than the entire Clipper starting lineup.

“Our transition game was terrible,” Chaney said. “Our defense wasn’t balanced. You know how many breakaways they had.”

Yet, most of the team seemed to take it all in stride, which was the same way they took their five-game winning streak. Marques Johnson (15 points) waved his hand in front of his face as if to wipe away any significance people might have placed on this loss.

“We’re going to have games like this,” he said. “You figure in 82 games, it’s going to happen a few times.”

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When it was suggested that the Lakers had one such game in their home-opening loss to Cleveland Tuesday night, Marques Johnson shook his head and decided to quote that other Johnson who plays in Los Angeles.

“Yeah,” he said. “We got blowed out.”

Clipper Notes Tom Collins, agent for Norm Nixon, said the minimum contract offer the Clippers filed with the NBA Wednesday is invalid because 60% of the $413,000 is deferred. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, only 30% of a player’s salary can be deferred. The significance is that Collins now claims Nixon can try to find an offer sheet beyond Nov. 21, which is his cutoff date. “If we don’t get an offer sheet by the 21st, we’ll just keep on trying to find one and let the Clippers take some action,” said Collins, who will send a letter to the NBA saying as much. Clipper General Manager Carl Scheer said the club checked with the NBA before making the offer. Also, Scheer said there is a clause in the contract that says that if something in the contract is not valid, the Clippers have the right to rework it and still keep the Nov. 21 cutoff. . . . Meanwhile, the New York Knicks have emerged as the team most likely to tender Nixon an offer sheet. Knick executives met Thursday night to discuss the prospective signing of free agent Louis Orr and consider offering Nixon a contract. Said Scheer: “I’ve talked to (Knick General Manager) Dave DeBusschere twice (recently) and we’ve not talked about making any deals.”. . . . Chicago and Houston are still interested, but aren’t close to tendering an offer sheet. The Rockets said they want to wait until another team tenders an offer and then work with the Clippers on a trade. The Bulls have five guards with guaranteed contracts, so it doesn’t figure they would try to sign another. . . . The Clippers return home and meet Atlanta Saturday night at the Sports Arena.


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