The rejuvenated Los Angeles Clippers leave no rest for the wea
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The rejuvenated Los Angeles Clippers leave no rest for the weary. Anfernee Hardaway was the latest opponent to remove his warmups in the fourth quarter after thinking the game was well in hand.
``I really wanted to get a little rest because we have another one tomorrow against Golden State and I really didn’t want to come back in,″ Hardaway said Tuesday night after the Orlando Magic blew a 13-point lead in less than four minutes and recovered in time to beat the Clippers 114-105.
``I tried to take over from the beginning,″ said Hardaway, who scored 20 of his 38 points in the first half and added a critical layup and two free throws in the final 1:23.
``Once they got back into the game and tied it up, I told myself I had to take over again. I think (coach Brian Hill) just wanted to ride it out, but he got me back in there in the nick of time.″
With Hill giving Hardaway a breather at the start of the fourth quarter and the Magic ahead 91-78, Brent Barry scored all of the Clippers’ points during a 10-1 spurt that melted a 91-78 deficit to 92-88 with 8:53 to play.
The game was almost a carbon copy of last Saturday’s loss to Chicago at Anaheim Arena, when the rookie guard’s instant offense helped the Clippers erase an 18-point deficit and tie the game in the fourth quarter.
``That’s a nice thing to have _ when you have guys fighting back,″ Barry said. ``Now we’ve got to take it one step further _ fight back and get a win. It’s really no good to fight back and then get knocked out in the 10th round. You’d rather fight back and give yourself the opportunity to win the game.″
Barry scored 14 of his career-high 20 points in a 4:26 span of the fourth. But with 5:11 remaining, he was denied a 3-pointer by replacement referee Mark Ayotte, who ruled that his 3-point shot did not beat the 24-second clock.
It would have snapped a 96-96 tie, but the only baskets the Clippers got in the final 6:36 were Lamond Murray’s jumper and Loy Vaught’s 3-pointer in the final 1:44. By then, Orlando had completed an 11-3 run that put the game out of reach.
``I’ve got another week of this, and it’s like I’m going to get out on good behavior,″ said Clippers coach Bill Fitch, who is anxiously awaiting the scheduled return of the locked-out referees Monday. ``I just took a vow that I’m not even going to talk about them.″
The game was the first the Clippers have played with three understudy refs, instead of two.
``I don’t understand the game they call,″ Fitch added. ``The thing is, I’ll probably end up kicking myself in the butt because I’ve been the one who’s at least said some good things about ’em. But I’ve second-guessed myself on that. Somebody had to do mission impossible.″
That’s what Hardaway’s role appeared to be when teammate and defending NBA scoring champ Shaquille O’Neal broke his right thumb on a foul by Matt Geiger during an October 24 preseason game against Miami.
The NBA’s third-leading scorer, selected Monday as player of the month for his 27-point average and 51-percent shooting in November, has kept the defending Eastern Conference champs atop the Atlantic Division standings. Their 14-4 record is only one game worse than they were last season when O’Neal was healthy.
``I think they ought to change his name. He’s worth more than a penny,″ Fitch said.
Hardaway will gladly relinquish some of his offense once O’Neal returns.
``It’ll be easy,″ he said. ``When your star player is hurt, once he gets back, you want to welcome him back. You don’t want to make him angry or anything like that because he’s 7-1 and 300 pounds. But we’re such good friends, we really don’t worry about that. I’m sure he’ll come back with the right frame of mind and just be ready to win.″
Dennis Scott added 21 points to help the Magic snap their first two-game losing streak of the season and send Los Angeles to its fifth straight defeat. Vaught led Los Angeles with 22 points.