Trail Blazers Beat Clippers, 134-123 : Believe It or Not, L.A. Is Still Alive in Race for Playoffs

Times Staff Writer

The Clippers' magic number is four.

Any combination of four Clipper losses or four Denver wins will eliminate the Clippers (11-52) from the National Basketball Assn. playoffs for the 11th consecutive season. The Clippers can start planning their summer vacations.

The Clippers moved closer to being eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday night, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers, 134-123, before an announced crowd of 6,768 fans at the Sports Arena.

"We've still got shot at the playoffs?" asked Clipper captain Mike Woodson, who scored 23 points. "I was just hoping to finish strong and try to make it respectable. As a player, I haven't thrown in the towel and I hope the rest of the guys feel the same way.

"But it's kind of disappointing. We beat Seattle (last Friday) and played well against the Lakers (Sunday) and we just embarrassed ourselves against Portland."

Clipper guard Lancaster Gordon scored a career-high 33 points, including 21 in the second half.

Gordon almost made a four-point play in the fourth period. He sank a three-point shot and was fouled by Jerome Kersey. However, Gordon missed the free throw, which would have cut the Portland lead to nine points with 1:26 left.

But Gordon didn't celebrate his big game.

"We lost and that was it," he said in a soft voice after the game. "Thirty-three points don't mean anything when you lose."

Forward Kiki Vandeweghe scored 30 points to lead the Trail Blazers to their 40th victory of the season. Last season, the Trail Blazers didn't win their 40th game until the second-to-last game of the season.

It is the earliest that a Portland team has won 40 games since the 1977-78 season, the season they were defending NBA champions. Portland (40-25) needs to go 10-7 in its remaining games to reach the 50-win mark for only the second time in the team's history.

"It's a combination of things," Vandeweghe said of the Trail Blazers winning 40 games. "We've played together for a year and we're playing with enthusiasm this season. We're playing with a lot of effort every game."

Said Portland Coach Mike Schuler: "I think it's a real credit that we have won 40 because we have been through some adversity ourselves."

The Trail Blazers had five other players in double figures in addition to Vandeweghe. Clyde Drexler had 21 points and 10 assists, Terry Porter had 21 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, and Kersey came off the bench to score 21 points. Kersey also had 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

Jim Paxson came off the bench to score 13 points, and Steve Johnson had 12 points.

Clipper forward Michael Cage had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and guard Darnell Valentine added 20 points and 9 assists.

Center Benoit Benjamin had 14 points and 7 rebounds before he fouled out.

The Trail Blazers put the Clippers away in the first half. Portland blitzed the Clippers, 22-6, in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the first period to lead, 35-27.

"We had 15 turnovers in the first half," Clipper Coach Don Chaney said. "That just won't do against Portland. We can't play that way and win. We were being beat all night defensively."

Drexler had 8 consecutive points and Vandeweghe 6 during the Portland spurt. Porter, who led the Blazers with 10 points in the first period, had four points and two assists in the run.

The Clippers shot 41.7% from the field in the first period, hitting 10 of 24 shots, and Portland shot 63.6% (14 of 22).

Clipper Notes

The Clippers suited up just nine players. . . . Guard Quintin Dailey sat out the game because he had a sinus infection and a stomach ache. . . . Guard Larry Drew and Kenny Fields remained sidelined due to injury.

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