Gasping Warriors Handle Clippers : Pro basketball: Golden State wins, 104-100, with 5 points in final 3 minutes.
The highest-scoring team in the NBA lurched across the finish line Wednesday night, like a car running on fumes.
But the Golden State Warriors had enough gas to beat the Clippers, 104-100, at the Sports Arena, despite getting their final field goal with 3:38 left and scoring only five points in the final three minutes, all on free throws.
The Warriors scored some 14 points below their average and still won, causing the Clippers added anguish. Golden State improved to 15-7 and inched within half a game of the first-place Lakers in the Pacific Division.
“Our defense was good,” Clipper Charles Smith said after moving into the starting lineup for the first time this season and getting 19 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes. “We could have had that game. No doubt. Everything was there for us to take it, but we just came up short on occasions in the fourth quarter.”
In the third meeting between the teams--the second within the last eight days--the Warriors led, 90-88, before reeling off seven consecutive points, capped by Chris Mullin’s baseline jump shot with 3:38 left. The Clippers, playing without Doc Rivers, out with a bruised and sprained left ankle, responded with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to 99-95 with 2:17 remaining.
When Smith made two free throws with 1:19 to go, they were within a basket; they were down by one point after Smith made another from the line with 41 seconds to go.
But from there, the Clippers (14-12) managed only a concession dunk by Smith with four seconds left. The Warriors’ final five points came on free throws, four by Tim Hardaway.
Getting the ball inside to Smith and letting him operate against slower, less experienced players served the Clippers well, though. But with Smith limiting himself to no more than 26 minutes to stay away from further problems in his return from knee surgery, it just didn’t work long enough.
“I was very concerned,” Warrior Coach Don Nelson said. “That’s the biggest mismatch on the court. He hurt us tonight. I told my team that we had two big things in our favor--they only played Smith about 20 minutes and they didn’t have Doc (Rivers). We were very fortunate.”
Hoping to capitalize from the start on Smith’s return, Coach Mike Schuler moved Loy Vaught to the bench. The Clippers attacked the gut of the Warrior defense immediately and with good results. Of their first 17 points, only Ron Harper’s three-pointer came on an outside shot.
The Warrior counter was Sarunas Marciulionis, who normally drives more than more most Southern California commuters. This time, the league’s leading scorer among sixth men, heated up along the perimeter for the majority of his 17 first-half points that helped Golden State to a 59-54 lead at halftime.
The Warriors, in their first road game after spending the last 15 days at home, added another point to the cushion by the end of the third quarter, taking an 82-76 advantage into the final 12 minutes. The Clippers played catch-up, tied it, 82-82, then fell behind for good, eventually to their second consecutive defeat after having won eight in a row.
The schedule should help Charles Smith and Doc Rivers get rid of their respective injuries. The Clippers have two days off before their next game, Saturday at Minnesota. After that, they don’t play until Christmas afternoon, against the Lakers at the Sports Arena. The only hitch, mainly for Smith, is that the Clippers play the next night at Utah, so he will be limited to about 20 minutes each against the Lakers and Jazz. In games with days off before and after Mike Schuler can be much more liberal with Smith’s minutes, and a decision on whether to lift restrictions will be made sometime at the end of the month, or just before the start of a six-game trip that begins Jan. 2. . . . Rivers is listed as day-to-day.
Loy Vaught averaged 10 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds in his 25 games as a starter, the first of his NBA career.