The Boston Celtics, in need of a rest stop, found one just off the Harbor Freeway, just as the schedule said.
They came to the Sports Arena amid a nasty road stretch and a tailspin, both of which ended with a 119-111 win over the Clippers Thursday night before 12,122, the Celtics’ ninth victory in the last 10 trips to the building.
“We knew we needed to win this one to get something out of the road trip,” Kevin Gamble said after scoring 18 points to help the Celtics break a seven-game losing streak. “We know they were not playing well, that they were struggling. It was do or die.”
Boston took “do.” The Clippers simply took the loss, their sixth in the last eight games. Three of those have been against sub-.500 teams, including the Celtics.
The frustration of the mounting losses and a non-call when he thought Danny Manning was fouled got Coach Bob Weiss kicked out early in the fourth quarter. That only saved him from watching up close as the Clippers shot 55.7% and still went down, and from watching a team that came in averaging 101.6 points a game go for 35 in the fourth quarter and 119 in all.
“It was a great coaching move,” said Clipper guard Mark Jackson, who had 18 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds. “We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole. That seems to be the story.”
The Clippers came in with their problems--Training Camp II starts Sunday--and the Celtics had theirs. Namely, a seven-game losing streak, Boston’s longest since dropping eight in a row in the spring of 1979, and a string of nine consecutive road defeats.
As if that wasn’t enough, they risked falling seven games below .500 for the first time since the end of 1978-79.
That the most recent losses came against Chicago, Utah twice, Atlanta, Charlotte, San Antonio and Phoenix was the only consolation. Finally in a decent matchup, two teams searching for some solid ground, the Celtics made the most of it early, moving out to a seven-point lead in the second quarter, 50-43.
It may have been encouraging, but it didn’t last. The Clippers, losers of five of their previous seven outings, pulled even again at 54-54 on Ron Harper’s layin with 1:25 left, then went ahead when Danny Manning intercepted a bad pass by Sherman Douglas and gave Mark Jackson a long lead pass for another layup.
The Celtics had a 58-56 lead at intermission, led by Gamble’s 15 points on six-of-seven shooting. But that was the tone early--Boston went 55.6% the first half, the Clippers 56.5%.
The pace carried into the third quarter for the Celtics, who built a 77-69 cushion, then capitalized on Weiss getting kicked out with 11:03 left in the game, the result of two technicals for arguing with official Mark Wunderlich.
Dee Brown made both free throws for an 88-79 lead, and Dino Radja made it a four-point possession with a high-arching fall-away jumper along the baseline.
If Weiss was hoping his first ejection as Clipper coach would be a spark, he was wrong. Within five minutes, they were behind, 102-83, with assistant Dave Wohl in charge.