Finding yet another way to lose a game, the Clippers blew a 17-point lead over the last seven minutes, let the 24-second clock run out when they could have won in regulation and played right into the San Antonio Spurs' hands.
They left Jon Sundvold wide open for a three-pointer from the left corner that led to the Spurs' 116-112 overtime victory at the Sports Arena Sunday night.
It doesn't figure that it would be the Spurs, who were completing a four-game trip and coming off a 32-point loss to the Lakers, and who would have enough steam left for the big finish--but, then, who can figure the Clippers?
Their fifth straight loss left them at 11-55 and still counting. The Spurs, at 25-43, are hoping to scratch their way into the playoffs.
Johnny Moore had his biggest game of the year for the Spurs, hitting 11 of 19 from the field to finish with 25 points. He played a key role in the Spurs' three-guard attack.
Sunvold, Moore and Johnny Dawkins made the difference in the final minutes of regulation and teammed up for the play that finally foiled the Clippers.
With about 30 seconds remaining in the overtime period and the Spurs trailing, 112-111, Spurs Coach Bob Weiss called a timeout to set up a play that would have Dawkins pass to Moore, who would serve as a decoy, driving the lane to draw in the defense, and leave Sunvold open on the outside.
But Dawkins couldn't get the ball to Moore, so Dawkins did the driving himself.
Clipper Mike Woodson sensed a layup, so he dropped back to try to help, leaving Sunvold open. Dawkins fired the pass to Sunvold, who put the Spurs up by two with 27 seconds to play.
Weiss said, "We didn't necessarily need a three-pointer, but Sunny was open in the corner, so he took it."
The Clippers had time to tie it, but Lancaster Gordon's shot from the left corner was in and out.
The Spurs' center, Artis Gilmore, added a couple of free throws for the final margin. Gilmore, a 15-year veteran, got little opposition from the Clippers' young Benoit Benjamin as he contributed 22 points and 16 rebounds to the winning effort.
In fact, Benjamin bothered Gilmore so little at the start of the overtime, which Gilmore opened with a rebound basket and a defensive rebound that led to a basket by Moore, that Clipper Coach Don Chaney sat him down with 3:50 to play. Chaney just shook his head as the big youngster rambled past.
"I don't understand it," Chaney said. "You would think anyone's adrenaline would be flowing at a time like that. He just didn't respond.
"I keep hoping that someday he'll come around, just respond to the challenge."
Benjamin didn't even respond to the boos from the crowd, announced at 6,449.
The Clippers had led by 10 points at halftime and by 17 points, 98-81, with 6:52 left in regulation. The Clippers went into the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead and built it with reserves in the lineup.
When it started to slip away, Chaney went back to his starters--and it slipped even more.
"The momentum was changing, and I felt I had to go back to my best players," he said. "Of course, with hindsight, we can second-guess it. If I hadn't changed and it had continued to slip, we could second-guess that.. . .
"It is frustrating. I thought we dominated for three-and-a-half quarters."
Clipper guard Larry Drew, who had missed seven games with a sprained right ankle, played 30 minutes and had six points. . . .San Antonio is one of the eight teams the Clippers had already managed to beat once this season. The Clippers won, 110-96, in San Antonio on Friday the 13th last month. . . .The Clippers, who are facing a schedule with four of the next five games on the road, will play at Denver Tuesday night, be back home to play Utah Wednesday and then play three more on the road.