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Clippers Finally Rallied Out : Pro basketball: Their winning streak ends at eight games as the SuperSonics prevail, 116-99.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers finally found a hole even they could not crawl from when, unlike recent victories they scored after trailing by 18 and 19 points, inertia won.

So did the Seattle SuperSonics, who dominated the inside early and scored a 116-99 victory Tuesday night at the Seattle Coliseum, leaving the Clippers on the outside looking in for the first time since Nov. 29.

The eight-game winning streak, tied for the longest in San Diego/Los Angeles Clipper history, was in trouble early as the SuperSonics opened a 23-point lead during the second quarter and shifted to cruise control. The closest the Clippers got in the fourth quarter was 13, the last time at 99-86.

“If you looked at the two teams, you would have felt the white shirts had the eight-game winning streak and the red shirts had lost four or five in a row,” Clipper Coach Mike Schuler said.

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“The white shirts were active and aggressive and moving around a lot. The red shirts were about a half-count behind all night.”

From the start. Trying to win their third in a row on the road for the first time since January of 1990, the Clippers fell behind, 14-5, and then 33-21 at the end of the first quarter. Seattle kept going, turning it into a 58-35 lead on Eddie Johnson’s jumper from the right side with 2:18 left in the half.

The Clippers (14-11) were either setting up another big comeback for their winning streak or re-enacting being on the wrong end of another Sonic boom. This is, after all, the locale of 15 consecutive losses, most notably the 50-point rout three years ago.

It’s not limited to Seattle proper, either. When the teams played last season nearby at Tacoma, the SuperSonics won, 140-108.

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The Clippers of Tuesday obviously missed Charles Smith, who didn’t make the trip because of the swelling and pain in the right knee that kept him out of the previous two games. The SuperSonics, playing without projected starting power forward Shawn Kemp, took advantage and dominated the inside, scoring 30 of their first-half points from there, 16 on second-chance baskets.

They also limited the Clippers to 10 rebounds during the first two quarters, six by Loy Vaught. Seattle had 12 offensive rebounds during that same span.

The Clipper were outrebounded for the game, 49-38. Vaught finished with 10, but no other starter had more than five, while the SuperSonics got 13 from Michael Cage and 10 from Johnson, hardly known for his rebounding.

“It just shouldn’t happen,” Schuler said. “There is no reason for (Benoit) Benjamin, Johnson, Cage to have that many more rebounds than (Olden) Polynice, (Danny) Manning, Vaught. There just shouldn’t be that kind of discrepancy.

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“Did it surprise me? It certainly did.”

The tone was set for the second half, and the Clippers were in no position to change it. Not in their frame of mind.

“Mentally, we weren’t ready to play, and it showed out on the court,” said James Edwards, who had 16 points off the bench. “It showed at every position. . . . We thought we could just go on the floor and win the ballgame. You can’t do that. You have to play much harder on the road than at home.”

Seattle, which ended a four-game losing streak, didn’t lead by fewer than 20 points during the third quarter until Manning’s short hook with two seconds left made the score 88-70. The Clippers shot 55% during the quarter and could get no closer than 18.

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They will probably decide not to dwell on it. Golden State comes to the Sports Arena, and that could be the first game of the new streak.

“You hope to have that kind of mentality,” Polynice said. “Like we said after the game, this is just one game. We wanted that streak to go on forever, but it can’t be like that in this league.”

Clipper Notes

Doc Rivers said his left ankle was feeling much better, two days after he suffered a sprain and one day after he sat out practice. “I couldn’t run,” he said before the game. “If we had to play (Monday), there was no way I could have played.” Rivers suffered the injury during Sunday’s victory over Orlando at the Sports Arena, when he gave Nick Anderson a head fake and Anderson landed on the joint where where the ankle and foot connect. Rivers played 20 minutes against Seattle. . . . The SuperSonics, beset by injuries, have used five different starting lineups for the first 23 games. The Clippers have had two.

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