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Clippers’ Downshift Keeps Pace : Pro basketball: They reach .500 by slowing tempo they played against Denver to beat Minnesota.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

From mile high to practically sea level, from speedway to pedestrian, from one time zone to another, the Clippers’ weekend of contrast ran the gamut of NBA styles. And walked it.

“A total turn around,” Bo Kimble said.

But there were no U-turns for the Clippers, who simply played well under both circumstances. The switch from playing at Denver to the slow-down style of Minnesota within about 24 hours went off without a hitch, the 102-77 victory over the Timberwolves Sunday night at the Sports Arena the best proof.

Charles Smith, who scored 52 points against the Nuggets, slumped all the way to 26 on 12-of-19 shooting, with 14 rebounds. But there were others who picked up the slack as the Clippers returned to .500, most prominently Kimble with 27 points.

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But the biggest showing of all was that the Clippers (8-8) played the transition game at its best in going from Denver’s style to Minnesota’s and stuck to their own course both times. One night, they stayed away from the running game, the next the half-court molasses offense. Both were success stories.

“That’s two straight nights we played outstanding team defense,” Coach Mike Schuler said. “We really played well at that end of the court, which enabled us to get some easy baskets.

“I thought we did extremely well. We didn’t change our game plan, our attack, from what we wanted to do. Tonight, we had six or seven one-pass shots, when we would dribble down and shoot. They (the players) weren’t told not to do that, whereas last night they were. Our game plan was to run, get out and go.”

Off they went in the second quarter, holding Minnesota, which came in with the second-best defense in the league at 97.1 points allowed an outing, scoreless for a span of 5:51 to turn a 32-28 lead into 43-28. That’s the last the Timberwolves saw of a game.

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But it wasn’t the largest Clipper cushion. That came in the third quarter, when Loy Vaught’s two-foot hook with 1:21 left made it 77-55. It took the Timberwolves (5-11) the rest of the game just to make that up.

“They had a lot of layups,” said Minnesota guard Pooh Richardson, who had 12 points and 10 assists, second to Tony Campbell’s 20 for team-high scoring honors. “I thought they did a great job of breaking out and getting those shots. When they did have half-court sets, they made most of those thanks to rebounds and second-effort baskets.”

A bigger key early on was Kimble, who began play in a 12 for 32 slump the previous three games. By halftime, he had 21 points, already just one shy of his season best, and had made seven of 11 shots.

“He really came out tonight and asserted himself,” Schuler said. “That was good to see. I think he had been playing a little tentatively lately.”

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Kimble merely followed the game plan. He stayed away from passive play.

“Today, I was trying to make things happen every time I got it (the ball), whether for the team or me,” he said. “I knew I would have a good game.

“The first couple of games, I wasn’t taking the shots I normally take. That’s all part of the adjustment process that takes time. But tonight was totally different. I wasn’t going to hesitate at all.”

He didn’t. The same could be said for the Clippers, who continued moving forward despite a weekend of turn arounds.

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Clipper Notes

Ron Harper, continuing his comeback from knee surgery, rejoins the Clippers for practice today, although he doesn’t expect a full workout. “Let’s call it an orientation,” he said. Early January is still the most likely return time. . . . Danny Manning, working into shape after missing seven consecutive games because of tendinitis in a knee, had his time limit increased from 20 to 25 minutes. . . . Barry Hecker, the Clippers’ director of scouting, said he is not interested in leaving the organization to join the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Billy McKinney, who resigned Thursday, as director of player personnel.

Ken Norman missed his fifth game on the injured list because of a sprained left ankle, meaning he is eligible to be activated for the next game, Wednesday against Dallas at the Sports Arena. He was examined before the game by team physician Dr. Tony Daly and given clearance to begin practice today. “It (the ankle) looked absolutely normal,” Daly said. “A lot of times when you start pounding again, you get a little puffiness. But I don’t expect any problems.” . . . By going 6-8, the Clippers tied the team record for most November victories since coming to Los Angeles. They also won six in the opening month of 1988-89.

Charles Smith dived into the second row to save a ball during the second quarter and emerged with his right elbow covered with nacho cheese. That was mild compared to the lady who was eating the food one minute and wearing it the next. Smith tied the franchise single-game scoring record Saturday at Denver despite his last points coming on a pair of free throws with 1:29 remaining. The disappointment of not breaking the mark set twice by Bob McAdoo in 1976 could have been worse-- Coach Mike Schuler was set to take Smith out of the game when he heard trainer Keith Jones mention the possibility of a record with 26 seconds left. Schuler made a quick switch with Loy Vaught already at the scorer’s table to check in and removed Manning instead. That was the only sideline help Smith was going to get, however, to break the mark. “With two minutes to go, we were only up by seven,” Schuler said. “I’m not going to do anything extra creative to get him the ball. If I did, it would have been to win the game, not set a record.”

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