Both came devoid of warning, without so much as a hint that Wednesday night’s game at Richfield Coliseum would be changing.
Charles Smith, who had stayed up until 3:30 a.m. nursing his badly bruised left thigh and woke up five hours later for more of the same, did not even know if he could play, and Coach Mike Schuler went a step further and counted his forward out. But when tip-off came, Smith was in the starting lineup.
The Clippers, who awoke Wednesday morning still stinging from the loss at Minnesota the night before, stumbled into a nine-point hole in the first quarter. But they used a 21-2 run to open the third quarter to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 100-90, and break an 11-game losing streak here.
“They grew in about 24 hours,” Schuler said.
All the way to 10-10 and feeling about 10 feet tall in the process, courtesy of the best 6 1/2 minutes of Clipper basketball this season. They turned a 53-48 halftime deficit into a 69-55 cushion that proved insurmountable, although the Cavaliers closed within 91-87 with 3:47 left in the game.
There was a 19-0 charge within the 21-2, the teams having traded baskets to open the third quarter before the Clipper pyrotechnics. Then. . . .
They held Cleveland to one-of-11 shooting, with five trips that didn’t even result in a shot. They scored on 10 of 14 possessions. They held the Cavaliers without a point--from Brad Daughtery’s rebound tip-in with 10:53 remaining in the quarter to Derrick Chievous’ jump shot with 5:09 to play.
The statement came without a statement. Schuler, as emotional as they come in the NBA, didn’t haul out the fire-and-brimstone act at halftime, a minor upset in itself. The vocal cords got off easy.
“I wish I could take the credit for that,” he said. “But I didn’t do anything to get them going.
“I just thought we were really aggressive to start the quarter. We hit two or three quick shots and just sort of picked ourselves up. . . . We got a nice roll going and made some easy shots.”
All while the Cavaliers struggled.
“I thought our level of play wasn’t very good,” Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens said. “We didn’t move the ball, we didn’t play good defense, we didn’t shoot the ball well. We seemed to be hesitating. Really hesitating at times, and when that happens we get out of sync.”
Smith, clearly hobbled, never got into a particularly good flow, but considering that Schuler had been planning to go without his second-leading scorer, anything was a bonus. That it was 40 minutes and 16 points before fouling out with 2:09 left turned out to be more than anyone expected.
“Right up to before the game, I didn’t know if I would play,” he said. “I told Keith (Jones, the trainer) I couldn’t squat or get low for my defensive positioning. I wasn’t sure how much I could contribute, but I just said a prayer and went.”
The effect, however, could be costly. Smith already has declared himself out of Friday’s game at Chicago, though there’s time to change his mind.
Always time for turnarounds when you’re a Clipper.
Danny Ferry, the Cavalier rookie who came to Cleveland in the deal that sent Ron Harper and draft choices to the Clippers, went two for six from the field with one rebound in 16 minutes as a substitute. Whether the Clippers were motivated to face Ferry, who signed to play in Italy last season before even discussing a contract with the Clippers, depends on who you talk to. Most said there was no special motivation, but Ken Norman had the opposite approach. “If I said it wasn’t, I’d be lying,” he said. “He seemed like a pretty nice guy, but that was a real low blow to our organization, not even trying to negotiate before leaving. I just don’t have any respect for him in that way.” The Clippers contend that they spoke with Ferry on numerous occasions before making him the second pick in the 1989 draft and dispute comments to the contrary by Ferry in Sunday’s Times.
Bo Kimble has turned trigger shy again, just after he pronounced new-found aggressiveness with a 27-point game Dec. 2 against Minnesota at the Sports Arena. In the four outings since, he’s gone three for nine, one for five, one for four and three for six. “He is very tentative,” Coach Mike Schuler said. “I don’t know why, either. All the rookies are struggling, but he hasn’t been as aggressive as he would like, or we would like.” . . . Norman had 30 points and 11 rebounds, giving him an average of 28.3 in three starts since returning from an ankle injury.