The tough stretch of the schedule yielded another tough loss for the Clippers.
Atlanta’s Moses Malone made a fall-away shot from the left post under tight pressure by Benoit Benjamin with 1:15 left. The Hawks’ Dominique Wilkins connected from near the left baseline despite pressure from Ken Norman. Nothing came easy for Atlanta, but it paid off.
But when it came time for the Clippers to make a pressure shot, the only thing that fell was their won-lost record. Tom Garrick’s straight-away three-pointer to tie with one second to play rattled off the rim, and the Hawks added a free throw for a 122-118 victory before 13,830 Friday night at the Sports Arena.
Moses Malone was fouled after grabbing Garrick’s missed shot and made one free throw after time had expired.
The Clippers, losers of seven of their last eight during a run that has included the Lakers and Utah Jazz twice, also lost their chance to sweep Atlanta for the first time in the 20-year franchise history. A career-high 18 assists by Garrick, against only four turnovers, went along with it.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” Coach Don Casey said after the Clippers fell to 27-45. “We just gave up too many points.”
Atlanta improved to 34-37.
The Clippers fought back from a 108-97 deficit with 7:13 left to make the score 114-114 on Danny Manning’s two free throws with 2:24 remaining. That was part of a stretch during which the Clippers scored on seven consecutive possessions.
But the Hawks took the lead as Alexander Volkov made a twisting shot in the lane. When Malone made one of two attempts from the free-throw line with 1:44 to play, the Hawks were ahead by three.
In between, Clipper momentum was hit with a major setback. Charles Smith got his sixth foul with 1:54 to play, leaving after scoring 23 points.
Continuing an impressive offensive showing that began with the second half of Wednesday’s game with the Lakers, the Clippers scored 60 points in the first two quarters against the Hawks to lead by five at halftime.
The Clippers shot 61.9% in the first 12 minutes, getting 10 points from Smith and nine from Garrick during that stretch. When they cooled off in the second quarter, Benjamin stepped forward with eight points. He also finished with 23.
Garrick had 15 points on five-of-six shooting, and his 10 assists were one short of his career high by halftime. Benjamin had 14 points and five blocked shots, and Smith 12 points as the Clippers shot a combined 55.8% in the half.
The Clippers led until the final moments of the third quarter, when Atlanta, winners of five in a row at the Sports Arena coming in, made the score 86-86 as Spud Webb converted the free throw after Ken Norman was assessed a technical foul.
The Clippers made the score again, 88-88, on Smith’s short jumper with 10 seconds left. But the Hawks answered, Volkov hitting a three-point basket in front of the Clipper bench at the buzzer. That gave Atlanta a 91-88 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
After not dressing for Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, Winston Garland, although still sore from a fall Monday, returned to action. Garland wasn’t sure whether he would play, but Coach Don Casey brought him off the bench in the first quarter, starting Tom Garrick at the point instead. “Still a little groggy, a little dizzy,” is how Garland described his status after falling on his left hip, neck and head while going for a rebound against Minnesota. “The neck and back are still sore,” said Garland, who passed a series of exams before being cleared to play.
Hot-shooting Danny Manning had moved up to ninth in the league in field-goal percentage heading into Friday’s game, at 53.6%. Manning, who has written “44" on his sneakers in memory of Hank Gathers, had a 59.3% success rate in the 13 games before the Hawk game. . . . Benoit Benjamin, the Clippers’ all-time leader in blocked shots, recorded his 1,000th when he swatted away Kevin Willis’ shot from the lane in the first quarter. Thirty other players have also reached 1,000 in NBA history. . . . The Clippers finished 13-13 against the Eastern Conference, including 6-7 at the Sports Arena.