The Clippers rebounded Saturday night from their 40-point whipping at Chicago the night before, but they didn’t rebound when it mattered most.
With 16 seconds to play in a game they trailed by two points, Clipper chances took one on the chin when Milwaukee’s Fred Roberts grabbed an offensive rebound from a missed free throw, was fouled, and made both of his attempts from the line.
That finished the comeback for good, a turning point in the Bucks’ 98-92 victory at the Bradley Center.
The grab by Roberts, resulting partially out of the luck because the ball bounced out to him, didn’t matter so much in points as perspective, because the Clippers were shut out after a three-point basket by Ken Norman with two minutes left.
“That (Roberts’ rebound) was the crucial play in the game,” said Loy Vaught, who had 13 rebounds for the Clippers, seven on the offensive end, but wasn’t in the game at the time. “That’s the second time we’ve lost a game because of a missed free throw. I blew an assignment once when my man got an offensive rebound. I don’t remember who it was, and I don’t want to. I just know we lost at Phoenix (Nov. 16 in overtime) on a similar play.
“It just takes the life out of you when something like that happens. They get the ball, but they also get a mental victory, kind of showing who wanted the ball more.”
The Clippers were in good position for the victory and the rebound, but got neither, losing to Milwaukee for the eighth time in the last nine tries.
The Clippers trailed, 93-89, after Norman’s layin with 2:42 left. When he hit the three-point basket 42 seconds later, the Bucks’ lead was one.
The bottom dropped out from there. The next Clipper possession resulted in a 24-second violation, and, after Milwaukee again failed to score, the Clippers couldn’t get a shot on their next trip downcourt. They got free throws, though, when Norman took a lob pass underneath from Charles Smith and used a pump fake to draw the foul from Jack Sikma.
Norman’s first shot was short. The second was long.
The Bucks responded with a free throw by Frank Brickowski, then a miss that bounced right to Roberts. Fouled almost immediately, he converted two attempts for a 96-92 advantage with 13 seconds to play.
“That put us in a position where they had to score two baskets for sure,” Roberts said. “When they missed that free throw, they missed a big time chance.”
When Jay Humphries made two more free throws with seven seconds remaining for the final margin, the Clippers were done for good, the victim of a lost opportunity and, just as striking, a lost offense.
This was the sixth time in nine games they have failed to reach triple figures in scoring, and one other time they landed on 100. Saturday, they were lulled into the Bucks’ slower pace and managed only eight points the final 3:59, three of which came on free throws.
“They did exactly what I asked them to do,” Coach Mike Schuler said of his team. “I was proud of that, in that they came in here and gave themselves a chance to win the game. Everybody wondered how we would respond after (Friday) night’s game. I didn’t wonder. I had no doubt in my mind they would respond in a positive way.”
But with just too many negatives at the end.
There is a chance Benoit Benjamin could also miss the final two games of the trip because of complications from having four wisdom teeth removed. He got the stitches removed Friday, but doctors now say they had to remove a piece of Benjamin’s left jaw bone because one tooth was impacted so far, which has slowed the recovery. Saturday marked the fourth game the Clipper center has missed because of the problem. . . . Bo Kimble played 19 minutes and made only one of eight shots.
According to the latest timetable, the soonest Ron Harper could return to action is late January, which, if that holds, would a little more than one year since he tore ligament and cartilage in his right knee. The Clipper guard has a Dec. 23 exam scheduled with Dr. John Bergfeld, who performed the reconstructive surgery along with Dr. Tony Daly, during which time he may be cleared to return to full practices. Harper, who said it will take about two or three weeks to be ready to play after getting clearance, currently is held out of scrimmages and drills that include full-speed running and cutting.
The 22 points and five blocked shots by Jeff Martin in Friday’s loss at Chicago were both career highs. . . . Danny Manning escaped Milwaukee unharmed for the first time. He tore his knee up here at a rookie, and last season suffered food poisoning from the bad ribs the night before. . . . The Bucks are 12-0 at the Bradley Center, their best start ever at home. . . . Having played four games in five days, the Clippers are off until Tuesday, when they play at Philadelphia.