What Gets Into the Clippers? : Pro basketball: For a change, they are the stars in a 122-107 victory over the Houston Rockets.


Nobody is going to believe this.

The Clippers, with the worst record in the NBA, beat the defending champion Houston Rockets, 122-107, Thursday night before 7,178 at the Sports Arena.

Playing their final game before the All-Star break, the Clippers built a 19-point third-quarter lead and ended the game with a 16-5 spurt after the Rockets cut the advantage to four points.

"We still have egos, even though our record is dismal," said Clipper forward Loy Vaught, who scored a career-high 33 points and had 13 rebounds. "I just think that this feeling, beating the world champs, is going to be a highlight of the year for us.

"We didn't beat chopped liver out there tonight. Houston's a great team, with All-Star players. This is definitely a bright spot for us this year."

Although many NBA observers felt the Clippers had a good chance to break the NBA record for most losses in a season, set when the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers went 9-73, they have already won eight games at the NBA All-Star break. Their last three victories have come against Coach Bill Fitch's former teams: Cleveland, Boston and Houston.

"We've made a lot of progress," Vaught said. "We're a much better team than we were at the beginning of the season. We were always working hard, and now we're starting to execute and play with some poise."

All-Star center Hakeem Olajuwon agreed.

"I think if they played like this every night they wouldn't have the record they have. They'd be 40-8," said Olajuwon, who had 34 points and seven rebounds.

"You have to respect those guys. The way they move the ball and play, I'm surprised by their record. But the difference is they have to play that way every night.

"If they continue to play like this, they'll have a better second half of the season."

Forward Lamond Murray scored 26 points and guard Malik Sealy added 24 as the Clippers ended a six-game losing streak by shooting a season-high 63%.

Murray and Sealy scored 14 points apiece in the third quarter, in which the Clippers shot a season-high 73.9% (17 for 23) and scored a season-high 38 points.

Pooh Richardson, who assisted on the Clippers' first nine baskets, had 14 assists and 11 points.

"We're still trying to learn how to play with each other, but I think today we played well together," Richardson said. "I know I passed up a couple shots I might have taken in other games."

Houston, which trailed, 93-76, going into the final quarter, outscored the Clippers, 26-13, and closed within 106-102 on Otis Thorpe's layup with 4:23 to play.

"They made a good run at us, and I thought there was no way we could pull it out," Fitch said.

Vaught took over down the stretch, scoring 15 fourth-quarter points.

The Rockets played their second game without guard Vernon Maxwell, who was suspended without pay for 10 games and fined $20,000 by the NBA for going into the stands and punching a fan during Monday night's loss at Portland.

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