Smith’s 52 Tie Record in Clipper Win
When the Clippers got their chance on the NBA’s Autobahn Saturday night, Charles Smith found himself in a fast-lane race with history as his team wrapped up a 137-121 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
The third-year forward knew he had 52 points, because the McNichols Arena scoreboard keeps running totals for individuals. But he didn’t realize that put him a point away from breaking the franchise record for scoring in a game.
So when the Clippers got the ball back after a basket by Denver’s Chris Jackson with 10 seconds left, those on the bench stood and starting shouting for Tom Garrick to push the ball upcourt to Smith. Garrick, unsure at first what all the commotion was about, got the ball to Smith, who shot a 15-footer along the right baseline with three seconds remaining.
“I didn’t know what everyone was saying,” Smith said after topping his previous best of 40, set last season at Indiana. “It was a lot of ‘Run, Charles!’ I looked at the clock and said, ‘Hey, the game’s over.’ I had no idea what everyone was yelling at me about.”
So when he got the ball?
“I was just shooting it for the hell of it.”
It wasn’t until some two minutes later that Smith discovered he had tied the mark Bob McAdoo set twice in 1976 as a member of the Buffalo Braves. Ralph Lawler, the Clippers’ announcer, delivered the news when Smith came out for the post-game radio show.”
“Oh, (expletive),” Smith said.
It was off the air.
“Damn,” said Smith, who made 17 of 27 shots from the field and 18 of 21 free throws. “If somebody had said something . . . oh, man.”
But he made the record book, shared entry or not; broke Derek Smith’s San Diego/Los Angeles Clipper record of 41 set in April of 1985; and made his own Wall of Fame. That’s a more personal thing, the box scores of record-setting games he puts above his desk at home.
Sometime today, after the Clippers return and get ready to play Minnesota at the Sports Arena, the Indiana box score from March 3 will come down. There’s a new pacesetter for Smith’s career.
He can post the reviews, too.
“I saw him do everything tonight,” said Orlando Woolridge, who led the Nuggets with 28 points.
“He’s perfected his game,” added Denver’s Jerome Lane, a teammate of Smith’s at Pitt. “The fade-away he has really turned it around. In college, it was just so-so.”
There were few detours in the first half for the Clippers, who were barely slowed by Denver’s constant full-court press and went into halftime with a 64-54 lead. That represented their best start of the season and their second-highest scoring half, bettered only by the 65 in the final two quarters at Portland.
Looking to offset the fatigue factor that slows many Nugget opponents in the second half, Coach Mike Schuler substituted often in the early going. Six Clippers played at least 12 of the first 24 minutes, but none more than Gary Grant’s 18. Smith went 16, and squeezed 22 points on nine-of-12 shooting during the first two quarters out of that.
Smith, having tired by the fourth quarter in a game during which he played 37 minutes, scored 19 points in the third quarter and 11 in the last. Good enough to tie McAdoo.
But there’s always next time.
“That opportunity won’t come around again,” he said, a notion that more than a few coaches around the league might disagree with. “Unless we play Denver.”
Joe Wolf, signed as a free agent two weeks before training camp, made his first appearance against his former teammates, missing his only shot in nine minutes. His other contribution was giving Denver players and coaches his informal scouting report on the Clippers, not unlike what Clipper rookie Bo Kimble told his teammates about the Paul Westhead style of play. . . . Barry Hecker, the Clippers’ director of scouting, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Billy McKinney as director of player personnel for the Minnesota Timberwolves.