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NBA PLAYOFFS / UPDATE : CLIPPERS : Garland Burns His Former Team

Former Clipper Winston Garland contributed 12 points and a game-high nine assists to the Houston Rockets’ 117-94 victory in Game 1 of the playoffs Thursday, another in a string of nice offensive showings since taking over for the injured Vernon Maxwell the last week of the regular season.

“You’ve got to give him credit,” Hakeem Olajuwon said. “He looked like a natural starter.”

Garland, a Clipper the second half of 1989-90 and all the next season, did not get hurt on defense, either. The Clippers did attack him, as expected, by posting up Ron Harper much more than during the regular season, but Harper made only one of eight shots before leaving because of a knee injury.

“I can’t say it’s extra nice to beat them or anything like that,” Garland said. “I’m still friends with some of the guys.”

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Ken Norman and Harper could be two losses away from the end of their Clipper careers, but both say that thought hasn’t crossed their minds.

“I’m not looking at it like that,” said Norman, who will become an unrestricted free agent if not signed before July 1. “They still want to sign me. If things work out, I still want to be here. The most important thing is to focus on the playoffs.”

The Clippers have until June 15 to decide whether to pick up Harper’s $4-million option for next season.

The timetable for Maxwell to be re-evaluated has been moved up from next Thursday to Monday. Maxwell, sidelined because of a broken wrist, is hopeful of playing in a Game 4, should the series go that long.

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