It passed without the fanfare the moment probably deserved.
For the first time since coming to Los Angeles before the 1984-85 season, the Clippers are a .500 team 10 games or more into the season.
It came with a 100-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets in front of 9,860 at the Sports Arena, as Quintin Dailey scored 25 points, Danny Manning 18, Ken Norman 17 and Charles Smith 16.
The moment was lost on most of the players, though, what with 70 National Basketball Assn. games still to play. Then again, can players be expected to remember a past they never knew?
“These guys, this is the first time most of them have been here in this spot,” said guard Norm Nixon, who has been with the Clippers all 4-plus seasons in Los Angeles. “It’s more like just a statistic to them. They don’t know what it means. All they care about is winning.”
In that case, a couple other numbers should impress them.
The Clippers (6-6) are tied with Golden State for third place in the Pacific Division, just a half-game behind second-place Portland and 3 games behind the Lakers.
They’re also 5-0 at the Sports Arena, the best home start since the inaugural season.
“That’s one statistic that means something,” Nixon said of the home-court run. “We can sleep in our own beds, drive our own cars, be more comfortable all the way around. That shows when we get on the court.”
They’ve made a lot of teams uncomfortable at the Sports Arena.
After doing a commendable job defending Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night, the Clippers came back with another solid effort against New Jersey. The Nets (6-7) shot 46.4% and were forced into 25 turnovers that led to 25 Clipper points.
“We’ve had some wonderful defense on the part of some players,” Clipper Coach Gene Shue said. “I’m really pleased about that because the defense has been suspect in the past, and before you can win on the road you have to be able to play good defense.
“Our biggest problem on the road has not been intensity, but the defense not being sound. Our transition defense has really hurt us. But I said a couple days ago it has improved, and I really believe it has.”
Home also has done wonders for individuals such as Benoit Benjamin.
In 7 road games, he is averaging 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots.
In 5 home games, including a down performance of 11 points and 4 rebounds against the Nets, he is at 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots.
“We should play better at home,” Benjamin said. “The home court is supposed to be a big advantage to us.”
That is has, even if the victories have come against teams with a combined record of 18-34.
This was also the game Manning, at 6 feet 10 inches, became the league’s tallest point guard, meaning he has played every position except shooting guard 8 games into his pro career.
Normally a forward, he brought the ball up court when Shue had a two off guards, Dailey and Tom Garrick, in the game. But even when Nixon came back in, Shue still had Manning handling the ball in the backcourt.
“That’s one place where I think he can have the most effect,” said Nixon, who knows a thing or 500 about playing point guard. “I don’t think anybody can guard him there, and that’s how you really want to play things. He surprised me with some of his passes. Heck, he wants to be a guard anyway. You can tell.”
Not true, Manning said. He enjoyed the role, but he has no interest in moving full time, or at least being compared to Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ 6-9 ball handler.
“I’d like to be compared when we talk about championships, that’s all,” Manning said.
Guard Gary Grant sat out with a strained lower abdominal muscle, a nagging injury he suffered last season while at the University of Michigan. It resurfaced in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game against Chicago when he came down awkwardly after trying to block Bill Cartwright’s shot. It is regarded as day-to-day. . . . Guard Reggie Williams dressed but did not play, getting an extra day for his right eye to heal after being scratched Monday at Utah. Quintin Dailey started in his place for the second straight game. . . . As expected, Clipper forward Joe Wolf, out with a groin pull, did not dress. . . . The Clippers play Tuesday at Sacramento.