Clippers Stop Pistons for Sixth in Row : Pro basketball: They start and finish fast; win streak is their longest since 1984.
The Detroit Pistons, NBA champions of days not-so-gone by, came to town, so the Clippers decided to come up with a game with a familiar ring.
Not by choice, but result. Another close game, another victory, the Clippers’ record-tying sixth in a row, this one by a 101-96 margin Wednesday night before 11,540 at the Sports Arena.
“It’s fun,” Clipper Danny Manning said. “The end of the game, it’s close, with a chance to win. That’s what we’re here for.”
Lately, they have been in the right place a lot. Of the six consecutive victories, the game against Denver went into overtime and others against Detroit, Golden State and San Antonio were decided at the finish line. The only chances to catch their breath came in meetings with Charlotte and Minnesota.
The Clippers withstood a two-man team while improving to 12-10. Joe Dumars scored 27 of his game-high 36 points in the second half, Isiah Thomas had all of his 26 then. That’s 53 of the Pistons’ 61 points the final two quarters.
Even with the Pistons’ star backcourt going off in their own back yard, the Clippers didn’t flinch. Trailing, 85-84, with 6:39 left in a back-and-forth game, they went ahead for the last time at 86-85, built a 97-91 advantage moments later and, finally, never looked back.
“What I like was what I saw when we got behind,” Coach Mike Schuler said after the Clippers improved to 9-4 at home. “In the past when we did get behind, somebody, and it would be different guys at different times, would say, ‘Let me do it alone.’ In the end, it would cause more problems than we got out of. But we’re not doing that anymore, and it is very encouraging to see that.”
Their 11-10 record before Wednesday was already the latest the Clippers have been over .500 since 27-26 at San Diego in 1979-80, but they had other stars to reach for: The victory Wednesday equaled their longest winning streak since 1984.
They will break the record if they defeat Utah Friday night at the Sports Arena. The Jazz is atop the Midwest Division, but the Clippers have already knocked off two leaders during this streak, Golden State and San Antonio.
Wednesday’s start was good, a 10-2 opening as the Pistons (9-13) failed to score on eight of their first nine possessions. Once that lead disappeared, the Clippers needed only until late in the second quarter to build another sizable cushion.
This time, it was at 42-32, thanks to a 12-2 rally. Charles Smith, a reserve for the fifth consecutive game, accounted for five of those points. That was enough to carry the Clippers into halftime with a 44-35 lead.
The Pistons, in the midst of a stretch of four games in five nights, shot only 38.5% the first half and scored 15 points the second quarter. Thomas missed all seven of his attempts before intermission.
The Clippers built their advantage back to 12 in the third quarter, 52-40, and the Pistons answered again, bigger than before. As big as a 17-2 charge, with Thomas making all four shots from the field for nine of the points and Dumars adding six more. That put Detroit ahead, 57-56.
And put the Clippers in position to respond. They did, and, thanks to Ron Harper’s three-point buzzer beater from the right corner, the Clippers led at the end of the third quarter, 74-67.
Piston players haven’t done anything to hide the fact that they miss James Edwards, especially his low-post scoring. Edwards, traded from Detroit to the Clippers during the summer, hasn’t done anything to hide the fact that Wednesday’s game was different than most others. That made for an interesting sidelight even before tipoff. “I’ve been looking forward to it, because of the way they treated me,” said Edwards, still soured by what he claims were reneged promises by General Manager Jack McCloskey to renegotiate his contract. So, aside from friendships with former teammates, he feels little sympathy over Detroit’s rocky start. “They are hurting in the scoring department, and I think they do miss myself and Vinnie Johnson more than they expected,” Edwards said. Many Piston players agree. Before the game, Isiah Thomas walked into the Clipper locker room, gave a ceremonial bow to the veteran center nicknamed Buddha and hugged Edwards.
Bo Kimble had informally targeted Sunday’s game against Orlando as his first action since suffering a stress reaction in his left foot during summer league, but he has been set back. The second-year guard said he began feeling pain during practice Monday at the Sports Arena and will probably delay his return for at least another game or two. Kimble is scheduled to be examined today by team physician Tony Daly. . . . The 47 free throws that the Clippers made in Tuesday’s victory at Golden State set a franchise record, bettering the mark of 44, accomplished three times. The 53 attempts was four shy of another record. The 47 was also one short of the Warriors’ franchise record for opponents.