The Clippers, venturing into Orange County Monday night, made themselves right at home--they got a bit conservative.
It came, however, at an inopportune time.
A 96-91 lead with 8:26 to play turned into an eventual 114-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings at UC Irvine’s Bren Center when the Clippers were outscored, 16-0, midway through the fourth quarter. Even a late charge couldn’t regain the lead, which didn’t bother Coach Gene Shue too much because, after all, it’s only an exhibition game.
“We really started to run out of big men,” Shue said. “Greg (Kite) was in foul trouble, Scott (Wilke) did not play, and with (Charles) Smith hobbling, I think that was the difference in the game.”
Wilke stayed out with an Achilles’ problem, and Smith was bothered by the knee injury that kept him out of a couple practices last week. That left the Clippers with an inside game led by Benoit Benjamin, who seemed up to the task.
Benjamin, maligned in his first 3 National Basketball Assn. seasons, continued his positive start to his fourth season by getting 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. Ken Norman led the Clippers in scoring with 19 points, and Quintin Dailey added 16, Gary Grant 14 and Grant Gondrezick 13.
Joe Kleine had a game-high 28 points for the Kings on 9-of-12 shooting, scoring mostly from inside. He also had 17 rebounds.
The Clippers led by 11 points on several occasions in the second quarter before the Kings rallied. The Clippers did their part by scoring only 9 points in the final 6:15 of the first half, and Sacramento trailed only 59-57 at halftime.
Norman led the Clippers in scoring in the first half with 12 points; Grant added 10. They had 31 and 23, respectively, in Friday’s 125-115 victory against the Kings at Stockton.
Kleine was the only Sacramento player in double figures, with 12. He also had 8 rebounds, 6 on the offensive end.
The lead went to 12, 69-57, as the Clippers opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run. But the Kings responded and took a 78-77 lead on Ed Pinckney’s basket with 3:03 left in the third quarter.
Sacramento widened the margin in the fourth quarter before the Clippers rallied to make it close. Evn Sacramento Coach Jerry Reynolds kept it in perspective.
“It’s just a preseason game,” he said. “We just made some shots and they missed. . . . Overall, I don’t think we played a whole lot better than the other night.”
The attendance was 1,071 . . . Guard Reggie Williams did not dress for the second straight game because of a strained right foot. . . . Arn Tellem, the Clippers’ general counsel, was interviewed in New York Monday as one of the finalists for a similar position with the NBA Players Assn. . . . The Clippers play the Golden State Warriors tonight at Santa Clara.