Stanley Roberts--that’s Mr. Roberts today--limped and grimaced his way through Tuesday night, a whirl of emotions.
None was greater than the feeling at the end, not for Roberts or his teammates. Not after scoring a career-high 25 points and adding 11 rebounds and four blocked shots to lead the Clippers over the Lakers, 101-93, before 14,274 at the Sports Arena.
“He just took over the ballgame,” Clipper Mark Jackson said of Roberts. “Stanley had fire in his eyes. . . . It was his game to be won or lost.”
The Clippers--not just Roberts--chose to win, and in the process took a major step in their chase for the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Lakers still hold a one-game lead, but the Clippers won the season series, three games to two, and the tiebreaker should the two teams be tied at the end of 82 games. So this victory, in essence, was worth two games.
“We’re still ahead of them in the standings and we want to stay there,” Laker Coach Randy Pfund said. “This is something (Clipper Coach) Larry (Brown) should be proud of. Both of us have been struggling, and I didn’t think either of us has found the team that we want going into the playoffs. This could be motivator for them, and I hope it was a motivator for us.”
The Lakers came in with the luxury of the two-game lead, putting much of the pressure on the Clippers.
“Heck, I think this is a big game when you look at the ramifications,” Brown said before tipoff. “One, we have never won a season series from the Lakers. Two, there’s the tiebreaker deal. Third, we’re right behind them in the standings. Four, and more than any of that, it’s the Lakers and the Clippers. It’s the biggest game this team has played since I have been here, other than the playoffs.”
The Clippers responded by taking an 11-point lead within 14 minutes, then extended that to 51-38 when Roberts, back after a one-game absence because of a sprained ankle, made a short shot with two seconds left on the shot clock and 5:13 to go in the second quarter. They led at halftime, 56-48, after shooting 55.8%.
The Lakers weren’t far behind at 52.6%, but 13 turnovers hurt. Four of those were in five minutes by Benoit Benjamin, booed continually by an otherwise bipartisan crowd.
The Clippers won the season series from the Lakers for the first time since 1974-75, when the franchise was the Buffalo Braves.
The Lakers led, 91-90, with 4 1/2 minutes to play before the Clippers took the lead for good with six consecutive points. James Worthy then scored the Lakers’ final basket with 2:14 remaining.
Roberts sealed the victory with a three-point play with 14 seconds to play that made the score 99-93.
“The Clippers executed down the stretch,” Pfund said. “We’ve controlled the rivalry for so long, but it still means a lot to us. I’ll give the Clippers the respect that’s due.”
Laker Coach Randy Pfund, who has used the same starting lineup in the 19 games since the Sam Perkins trade, said that he might make some changes before the season ends. “As much as I’ve hung with these guys, it might make some sense going down the wire to get a look at some people,” he said. “Maybe we can find something out that would help us in the playoffs and into next year. Doug Christie, Anthony Peeler, Elden (Campbell), Benoit (Benjamin), all of these guys are a possibility in a starting role.” Christie’s start could be at small forward, although the bulk of his playing time has been at point guard, where he has struggled defensively. “That’s where his instincts are,” Pfund said, “and it’s something we need to find out to have some direction for the off-season.” . . . Clipper Mark Jackson saw a streak of 44 consecutive free throws end when he missed during the third quarter Saturday at Seattle, also his first miss in March.