The Clippers did not beat Dallas Friday night as much as they outlasted the Mavericks.
Outlasted nine Dallas three-pointers, outlasted the Mike Iuzzolinos and Tracy Moores of the NBA. Outlasted their own play, even, to record a 105-97 victory at the Sports Arena.
"If you can't celebrate wins, you're in trouble," Coach Larry Brown said, trying to put a good slant on a game the Clippers won despite making only 33 of 47 free throws and several mental errors. "We just made it hard on ourselves.
"I think when I look at it tomorrow I'll look at the standings and not the game story."
Those standings show the Clippers with 33 victories, their best since coming to Los Angeles.
This was supposed to be a breather for the Clippers, especially considering the Mavericks, the second-losingest team in the Western Conference at 17-47, played without Derek Harper and got only 11 points on five-of-14 shooting from Rolando Blackman. But, with Iuzzolino going four for six on three-pointers en route to 21 points and Terry Davis adding 18 rebounds, it was anything but.
Ron Harper led the Clippers with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
The Clippers had an 11-point lead, 86-75, with 9:50 left. Following the script of the game, they then disintegrated.
Dallas, which lost its eighth in a row, needed 6:03 and a 14-5 run to cut that down to two, 91-89. The Mavericks were within 98-93 with 1:10 remaining, but Harper blocked Blackman's jump shot from inside the three-point line coming out of a timeout, then made an off-balance 10-footer at the other end for a 100-93 Clipper advantage.
Maverick Coach Richie Adubato didn't wait around for the finish. Upset that no foul was called as several Dallas players put up shots in a crowd, he got back-to-back technicals from Ron Olesiak and was ejected with 15.6 seconds left.
The Mavericks have lost 19 in a row on the road, tying the franchise record set in 1980-81. Overall, they have lost 13 of 17 since the All-Star break and are staring at a schedule that includes Seattle, Portland and the Lakers the next four outings.
"We're gonna get people who have a lot more to play for than we have to play for," Adubato said before the game.
"It's hard losing every night. But it's like most expansion situations. The other night, we played Charlotte, and I don't know if we were not younger than the expansion team."
The Mavericks began Friday both wounded and realistic.
Derek Harper was home with sprained ligaments in his left wrist, missing his third consecutive game. Iuzzolino took his place and started for only the third time. He was backed up by Moore, a natural shooting guard who opened the season in the Continental Basketball Assn.
So what could Dallas expect going in?
"A lot of problems," Adubato said before tipoff.
The Clippers should have been so impressive. Instead, without trying to shake the young Maverick guards with traps and presses as Adubato had feared, they pulled away by 12 in the second quarter only to have Dallas move back within 47-43 with 1:07 left before intermission.
The Clippers were ahead, 48-43, at halftime, despite the Mavericks only going seven for 20 (35%) in the second quarter.
The Clippers still couldn't shake Dallas in the third quarter, despite building a 69-57 advantage. But the Mavericks trailed only 79-74 at the end of the quarter, largely because they hit five of seven three-pointers, including one at the buzzer by Herb Williams, his first of the season.
Ron Harper suffered two sprained wrists trying to brace himself in the ugly fall during Wednesday's loss to the SuperSonics and missed practice Thursday but was back in the starting lineup Friday. His left wrist was heavily taped. . . . This was only the eighth time this season the Clippers have had their full squad available. . . . Compliments have started coming from the most unexpected places for the Clippers. "I love it," Seattle's Michael Cage, an outspoken critic of the front office since being traded in 1988, said of his former team's prosperity. "I think it's great. I'm happy for the organization and I'm happy for the fans. They're very deserving of this kind of success."