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Loss Leaves Clippers Feeling Worse : Wolf, Dailey Join Ranks of Wounded as Pacers Win, 123-88

Times Staff Writer

The Clippers’ skeleton crew was rattled in a big way Friday night, buried by a team that has new life but still had no business doing this much damage.

The Indiana Pacers beat the Clippers like a sledgehammer, pounding them to the tune of 74 rebounds, the most in the National Basketball Assn. this season, in a 123-88 rout before 9,374 at Market Square Arena.

The game, which featured the debut of the Pacers’ new coach, Dick Versace, left the Clippers in worse shape than they already were, if that’s possible. The Pacers, who were coming off a victory over Atlanta that ended a 9-game losing streak, rode roughshod all the way. Improving to 7-23, they joined such notable teams as Sacramento and Miami as winners over the Clippers.

With Danny Manning and Greg Kite home with injuries, Reggie Williams home on personal business and Charles Smith back but weakened after his bout with the flu and strep throat, the Clippers were already hurting, but by the end of the game, they were hurting more. As they lost their fourth game in a row on this trip, Joe Wolf suffered a severe bruise over his left eye in the first quarter, and Quintin Dailey had to have 3 stitches on his right eyebrow after a fourth-quarter collision.

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The carnage was everywhere. The Pacers shot 51.5%, the Clippers a season-low 38.9%. It was the third-largest margin of victory in Pacer history, and the second-worst of the Clipper season. The 88 points tied the Clipper season low, joining the infamous loss to Miami. With the 6-foot 3-inch Dailey starting at small forward in a front court depleted by injuries, the Clippers managed only 47 rebounds.

“We didn’t do anything, and we let them do anything they wanted, offensively and defensively,” forward Ken Norman said after the Clippers scored just 38 points in the second half. “We just didn’t rebound and they did rebound. Our people were a little small, but we can’t make excuses.”

Still, there was some good news for the Clippers. It came from Los Angeles, where another examination of Manning’s injured right knee by team physician Tony Daly brought a more positive, albeit still preliminary, diagnosis than that of the day before.

“Daly said he’s more optimistic than he was yesterday,” General Manager Elgin Baylor said. “He said there was more movement and flexibility than yesterday. . . . But he still doesn’t know the full extent of the damage, whether it’s a partial (ligament) tear or a full tear. He’ll wait and see on that.”

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Manning will have his next test Monday, but the Clippers will have theirs Sunday in New York, when they play the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks. A reinforcement will arrive in the form of free agent Dave Popson, who already has served two previous stints with the team this season.

Popson, a 6-10 forward who was a teammate of Wolf’s at North Carolina, averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds when he played in 8 of a possible 14 games earlier in the season.

The departure of Kite, who had suffered a bruised cheekbone and fluid buildup in the nasal cavity, was more of a surprise. His status was said to be day-to-day, but Coach Gene Shue sent him home rather than take any chances.

That left the Clippers with nine players to start the game, one more than the NBA minimum. By the time they lost Dailey, they were already down, 103-69.

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The Indiana lead grew in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers (10-21) misfired on 3-point shots as they tried to close the gap. Four times, the lead reached 39 points. Not bad for a team that came in averaging 105.3 an outing, the seventh-worst mark in the league.

“We were short bodies,” said Clipper center Benoit Benjamin, who had 14 points and a season-high 6 blocked shots. “Big bodies, basically. They just kept running in fresh people.”

That’s a game plan that the Clippers can only dream of these days.

Clipper Notes

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Gary Grant led the Clippers with 19 points. For the Pacers, Chuck Person had 28 points, and Wayman Tisdale had 22 points and 10 rebounds. . . . Reggie Williams will decide today when he will rejoin the Clippers. He returned to Los Angeles to be with his wife, Kathy, who underwent successful surgery Friday. . . . Benoit Benjamin came into the game having shot 65.6% from the field in his previous 8 outings, which pushed his overall mark to 55.4%. That’s No. 8 in the league and a 6.3% improvement over his career best of last season. . . . This was the first NBA start of Tom Garrick.

Before being sent home, Greg Kite got to Indiana in a roundabout way. He joined the Clippers for the Thursday bus ride from Milwaukee to Chicago but did not fly with his teammates from Chicago to Indianapolis. Doctors were concerned that the sensitive nasal cavity--which is filled with fluid after he was hit in the face with an elbow--would be adversely affected by the air pressure. Instead, he drove here. He was then apparently given clearance to fly to Los Angeles. . . . Vern Fleming, the Pacers’ usual starting point guard, missed his sixth straight game with a sprained ankle. That equals his absences in the last 4 seasons combined.


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