No one on the Clippers wants Coach Don Chaney to keep his job more than forward Cedric Maxwell, whose relationship with Chaney goes far beyond the basketball court.
"It's Don's crisis, but I'm feeling it, too," said Maxwell, who played with Chaney at Boston in the late '70s. "It makes me play harder."
Saturday night at the Arco Arena, Maxwell put his strong feelings into actions by personally reaching out and saving a 117-116 Clipper victory over the Sacramento Kings before a raucous sellout crowd of 10,333.
Clinging to their one-point lead with three seconds left, the Clippers needed to stop the Kings on one last possession in order to secure their second road win of the season and further solidify Chaney's job security.
Sacramento lobbed the ball to LaSalle Thompson in the lane about three feet from the basket. Thompson turned and shot, but Maxwell reached out and swatted the ball away, surprising Thompson and maybe even himself.
As the buzzer sounded, Chaney already was on the court to provide congratulations. Maxwell flashed his coach and friend a broad smile.
Now that Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling has called off Duck hunting season in a phone call to Chaney (nicknamed "Duck") on Friday, all the Clippers have to worry about for the time being is winning games. Especially road games.
Saturday's win was only the Clippers' second on the road this season. Both have been at Sacramento, which no doubt irks the Kings. In fact, one King was quoted as saying: "If we lose to the Clippers again, we should be banned from the NBA."
At least Sacramento didn't go out without a fight. Since both teams came into the game with 9-18 records, it was fitting that it came down to a final shot.
If Maxwell had not missed two of four free-throw attempts in the final 1:03, the Clippers probably would not have found themselves in such a fix.
They had the ball and a 117-116 lead with 26 seconds left and Chaney ordered Norm Nixon and Franklin Edwards to run out the clock. With 1 second left on the shot clock and 3 on the game clock, Edwards slipped and was called for traveling.
Sacramento called time out and set up a play in which Eddie Johnson would inbound the ball at midcourt and throw it to Thompson. It worked, too, but nobody expected Maxwell to be there.
The element of surprise helped, according to Maxwell.
"My wife could've blocked that shot," Maxwell said, smirking.
Maxwell had 18 points, 13 rebounds. Marques Johnson, who fouled out with 1:26 left, had 24 points, while Norm Nixon had 21 and Junior Bridgeman 19.
Eddie Johnson led Sacramento with 31 points.