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Nine Is Plenty for Trail Blazers : Pro basketball: Portland plays three men short because of suspensions, but Drexler keys victory over Clippers.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Portland Trail Blazers had only nine players available for Friday night’s game against the Clippers because center James Edwards and forwards Jerome Kersey and Harvey Grant were serving one-game suspensions for leaving the bench during a fight Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings.

But that was more than enough to beat the Clippers.

Guard Clyde Drexler, who was suspended for Thursday night’s 122-115 loss to Phoenix for his involvement in the fight, made five consecutive three-point shots in the second and third quarters and scored 28 points as the Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers for the fourth time in four games this season, 108-97, before an announced 7,051 at the Sports Arena.

“We knew we were shorthanded, but we just wanted to get everyone in the game and concentrate on giving a good effort,” Drexler said.

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Drexler, who scored a season-high 41 points against the Clippers in a 112-95 victory on Nov. 5 in Japan, made nine of 21 shots, including five of seven three-pointers, as Portland ended a three-game losing streak.

Drexler said he plans to appeal the fine.

“We’ve got to arbitrate that,” Drexler said. “We had (Sacramento center) Olden Polynice and (Portland guard) Rod (Strickland) get into it and nobody went out there with the intention to fight. It wasn’t like there was a rush. We just went out there and a couple guys went out there to stop it and once it was stopped, everybody else just went to see if everybody was all right, and we had a lot of guys fined from one team when both teams were clearly out there.

“I understand the rule (for leaving the bench during a fight), but when you have a guy that’s 7 feet tall going after a 6-foot point guard, you want to stop that real quick because you don’t want to lose your point guard.”

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But Drexler seemed to benefit from the one-game rest, scoring 18 second-half points.

“I hate him,” Coach Bill Fitch jokingly said of Drexler, who averaged 26 points in his first three games against the Clippers.

“His folks still run a restaurant in Houston and I’ve threatened to burn it down when I go home,” said Fitch, whose off-season residence is just outside Houston.

“He’s all washed up, I could tell. Somebody should tell him.”

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Drexler impressed Clipper guard Malik Sealy, who had 20 points.

“He took me to school in the second half a couple times,” Sealy said. “He has those years of experience and he knows how to get open and how to use that little second that you might be behind.”

Strickland, who was fined $5,000 and suspended for Thursday night’s game at Phoenix, made his first five shots and scored 23 points, 14 in the first half. Forward Cliff Robinson had 23 points and 11 rebounds.

The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, cut the deficit to 88-77 going into the fourth quarter when Pooh Richardson, who had 18 points and nine assists, made an off-balance shot at the end of the third quarter.

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They cut it to 96-89 when Richardson beat the clock with a jumper with 6:51 remaining. But the Clippers (6-32) couldn’t get any closer and lost for the seventh time in eight games.

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Clipper Notes

Guard Gary Grant, who sat out Wednesday night’s 93-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers because of a bruised left knee, was in uniform but didn’t play.

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