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Clippers Are Trounced as Shooting Guards Fail : Suns Run Away With a 123-103 Victory Despite a Triple-Double by Norman

Times Staff Writer

The Clippers’ 2s were a zero. Phoenix’s K.J. was A-OK. The Snake couldn’t survive alone under the beating Suns.

Gibberish? No more than the Clipper offense in a 123-103 loss to the Phoenix Suns Saturday night before 10,903 fans at the Sports Arena.

In plain English:

--Ken (Snake) Norman, after sitting out the last game and skipping Friday practice because of bronchitis and a strep throat, played 42 minutes and had 20 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists, making him the first Clipper to record a triple-double since Michael Brooks on March 11, 1983. That’s a span of 495 games.

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--Kevin Johnson, the Suns’ outstanding guard, had 16 assists and hit 13 of 20 shots for 29 points. Both were game highs.

--The 2 position is basketball vernacular for shooting guards. After the game, Clipper Coach Don Casey would have liked to shoot his shooting guards. Starter Quintin Dailey made just three of 14 field goals, and Tom Garrick came off the bench to hit two of eight.

“The next time our 2 guards make a basket, it’ll be the first time,” an obviously frustrated Casey said. “Look at the first half (when Dailey was one of eight and Garrick one of three). How the hell can you win when your 2 guards make two of 11?

“It (the problem) has been there. Now, it’s becoming rampant. They they don’t get back on defense, neither of the guards.”

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Dailey, who had shot 50% (49 of 98) in the previous six games, wasn’t buying into Casey’s line of thinking.

“He can say what he wants to say,” Dailey said. “I have no gripes with that. Missing shots doesn’t mean you’re not doing everything that you are supposed to be doing. You’re going to have games like that.

“If my play is that bad, bench me. It’s as simple as that. I’m not saying that sarcastically or to be mean. But if he feels I’m not playing hard, he can bench me.”

Casey is considering other alternatives--Eric White, normally a small forward, may be given a chance at guard.

Norman had 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the first half, when the Suns, who moved within three games of the Lakers in the Pacific Division, opened a commanding lead.

“It’s a personal goal I set for myself before the season,” Norman said of the triple-double. “Only a few guys in the NBA can say they’ve done that. It shows I scored, I was helping other people score and stopping the other team from scoring by getting rebounds. But it would have meant much more if we had won.”

It was clear early on that the Clippers (14-53) would not win.

Opening an eight-game homestand, the longest in franchise history, they trailed by 10 points at the end of the first quarter, 36-26, and then started the second by scoring on only one of six trips downcourt.

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The Suns had a 45-29 lead by then, on their way to a 20-point cushion in the first half. They had it before a Benoit Benjamin free throw cut the score to 66-47 at the intermission.

The Clippers, who made only eight of 25 shots in the second quarter (32%), hadn’t been faced with a possible blowout at halftime since the last time they played the Suns, March 4 at Phoenix. These last two games between the teams marked quite a change from the first three meetings, two of which went into overtime and the other was decided by seven points.

Tom Chambers scored 12 points in the second quarter for the Suns, en route to 17 at halftime and 25 in the game.

Clipper Notes

Benoit Benjamin had shot 60.2% from the field in the last seven games coming in, moving him into a tie for ninth place in the league’s percentage statistics at the start of the night. Brad Daugherty of Cleveland was also at 54% overall. . . . Gary Grant, on the motivation of most players wanting interim coach Don Casey to be given the job full time: “I think there’s some of that. We also want to win, but more of it is to play hard all the time. He makes you play hard. I can’t see anybody coming in and making more of a difference.” . . . Reggie Williams was sidelined for the second time in three games with a sore left thumb . . . In addition to setting a career high for points (24) in Thursday night’s loss at Seattle, Eric White also tied his career best in rebounds (9). . . . The Clippers will play Denver Monday night at the Sports Arena.


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