A quick but painful dose of reality hit the Clippers again Wednesday night in a 109-103 loss to the Miami Heat before a crowd of 9,307 at the Sports Arena.
After impressive victories over Cleveland at home and San Antonio on the road, the Clippers, attempting to get three straight wins for the first time in almost three seasons, looked like they had a shot at doing just that in the closing minutes of the game.
But for 3 1/2 quarters, they regressed to the team that is 1-3 against the expansion Heat.
The way they had been playing, the Clippers should have seen this one coming.
“It just befuddles me that we worked so hard to get the two wins,” Coach Don Casey said. “Then we get the two wins and we come in here like we’re the coolest team in L.A.
“It’s not like it is a low point because we lost to Miami. It’s the way it happened, the casualness and the inability to convert inside.
“My annoyance is that I sensed we didn’t approach this with the feeling we had in the other two games.”
To which center Benoit Benjamin, who had 23 points and 17 rebounds, responded: “I agree with that.”
Miami has won two road games, both against the Clippers. Miami (10-52) has not beaten any other team in the league more than once.
The last meeting, Feb. 24 at Miami, resulted in a 20-point Heat victory. This one had all the markings of a repeat performance, as the Clippers (13-50) led, 2-0, but never again.
The Heat led by as many as 12 points in the first half, including 63-51 at halftime. Kevin Edwards made eight of his first nine shots from the field and had 16 points by halftime. He finished with 18. Rory Sparrow had a game-high 29.
The cushion was 12 by the start of the fourth quarter, when the Clippers made their move. Twice they cut the Miami lead to two in the final five minutes, but that was as close as it got.
And as close as the Clippers got with their winning streak.
The Clippers have obviously had their troubles, but there have been impressive moments in 1988-89, too. Consider that, of their 12 victories, two have come against Houston and one each against Phoenix, Chicago, Denver and Cleveland. The last two wins, against the Rockets and the Cavaliers, came when each was in first place in their respective divisions. The Clippers had 17 victories last season, but Utah, Philadelphia, Detroit and the Lakers were all among the victims. . . . Recent success aside, Coach Don Casey is realistic about the rest of the season, which includes games against the Lakers, Detroit, Phoenix and Utah. “I don’t see this thing lasting,” he said. “We’ll slip and we’ll come back. But it (the past few outings) is a sign that they’re being nurtured along.” . . . The Clippers play host to Charlotte Friday in the second of a three-game home stand. All fans in attendance are eligible to enter the Kurt Rambis look-a-like contest, which will be held at halftime in conjunction with radio station KLSX. All contestants will receive a pair of sunglasses, and the winner will receive an autographed game jersey from Rambis, the former Laker now with the Hornets, and a pair of tickets to Comic Relief March 18.