Clippers Caught Short in the Middle Again : Pro basketball: Ewing scores 21 against undersized Outlaw as Knicks win their sixth consecutive game, 87-74.
Clipper swingman Charles Outlaw may have the toughest job in the NBA.
Forced to play center after Stanley Roberts ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon last October and Elmore Spencer was put on the injured list because of apparent emotional and personal problems last month, Outlaw, a natural forward at 6 feet 8 and 210 pounds, guards bigger and stronger players.
One of those players, Patrick Ewing, 7 feet and 240 pounds, gave Outlaw all he could handle Thursday night by scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Knicks extended their winning streak to six games with an 87-74 victory over the Clippers before their 100th consecutive sellout crowd of 19,763.
Ewing made eight of 13 shots and five of seven free throws as New York won for the 14th time in its last 15 games.
“I keep feeding (Outlaw) and he don’t grow, so I guess he’s probably going to be the shortest center all year,” Clipper Coach Bill Fitch said. “I told him to quit smoking because it would stunt his growth.”
“There aren’t many guys smaller in this league playing center,” Fitch said of Outlaw. “I wouldn’t trade him. I don’t think there’s a better 6-foot-8 center. He does the best with what he’s got and that’s all you can ask.”
Outlaw said he has adjusted to guarding bigger players.
"(Ewing) didn’t do anything that he hasn’t done on any other big man . . . . well center, I can’t say big man because I’m not one of them,” said Outlaw, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. “I can’t block (Ewing’s) shot, but I can try, that’s all I can do.”
The Clippers had only 11 players in uniform because point guard Pooh Richardson, averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 8.5 assists, was sidelined because of a strained right knee.
Richardson, who strained a ligament in Wednesday’s 107-98 victory at Boston, is expected to be out indefinitely.
Guard Randy Woods, the Clippers’ No. 1 draft pick in 1992, started for the second time as a pro and was outscored, 17-3, by Knick point guard Derek Harper, who made three of four three-pointers. Woods made one of five shots, a 30-footer at the end of the third quarter, and had five assists, five steals and two rebounds in 28 minutes.
“At least (Fitch) had confidence in me,” Woods said. “I guess I have to keep working hard. This was a pretty big step for me, playing against the Eastern Conference champions.”
After making his only shot, Woods celebrated by playfully taunting film director Spike Lee, seated courtside.
Guard Gary Grant, rounding into shape after missing the first 29 games of the season because of knee surgery, had 10 points, four rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes as a reserve.
Clipper rookie forward Lamond Murray struggled, making only five of 20 shots and scoring 14 points, Murray missed 10 of his first 11 shots as the Clippers shot 29% in the first half and and fell behind, 41-29, at halftime.
Forward Loy Vaught, averaging a team-high 16.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, got into early foul trouble and had only four points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, outscored the Knicks, 21-11, in a spurt that spanned the third and fourth quarters to pull within five points.
But New York outscored the Clippers, 20-8, in a six-minute spurt to beat the Clippers for the third consecutive game and the 15th time in 17 games. Reserve Knick guard Hubert Davis had eight of his 18 points in the final quarter.