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CLIPPERS SAVED BY DEFENSE : CLIPPERS 81, MINNESOTA 70.

Byline: Gary Washburn Daily News Staff Writer

Finally, the Clippers found an answer to their shooting woes: the Timberwolves.

Yes, the Clippers remained a thirty-something-percent shooting team on Sunday at the Sports Arena against Minnesota. And yes, the starters remained as cold as a Minnesota winter.

But the Timberwolves were worse. The same club that gave the Lakers a tough game last week refused to let the Clippers ride alone in futility.

An 81-70 Clippers' win in front of an announced crowd of 6,314 was the result. And coach Bill Fitch avoided expressing concern about the negatives.

Loy Vaught and Malik Sealy continued to struggle from the field. And Fitch, with the club behind in the fourth quarter, benched four starters. Only Rodney Rogers, who carried the team early when it missed 11 of the first 12 shots, remained.

``I'm not going to pull out the big belt yet,'' said Fitch about the starters. ``I'll wait for that. I'll just say we played good defense to keep ourselves in the game.''

The Clippers did, holding the Timberwolves to a franchise low in points. And while Minnesota was busy bumbling on offense, the Clippers made a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to seal the game. There was much inconsistency - the Clippers had scored only eight in the third to squander a lead and that's when Fitch began pulling starters. Besides Rogers, they combined for 4 of 29 from the field.

Once again, the bench provided relief. Stanley Roberts, who is playing the minutes of a starter without starting, came through with 19 points and 14 rebounds and is slowly gaining back the confidence of Fitch.

While Kevin Duckworth's minutes continue to decrease while he tries to lose weight, Roberts is beginning to feel more comfortable with playing big stretches. He wasn't gasping for air as in Denver and appears to be getting closer to being a dependable player. Fitch continues to be cautiously optimistic about his center.

``If Stanley can get in good enough shape to get the ball in the block, he'll be hard to stop,'' Fitch said. ``I think he is getting confidence in himself. And as long as he works hard, I'll be happy with him.''

Fitch played Rogers 44 minutes because he and Roberts were the only productive players offensively. Extra work at practice is apparently not helping Sealy, who missed nine of 10 shots and continues to miss the open jumpers.

``What was I tonight, 1 for 10? I'm getting better,'' Sealy said sarcastically. ``I've got to continue to keep on working on my shot. It only takes one to get started.''

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Photo

Photo: (color) Minnesota Timberwolves guard James Robinson, left, dishes the ball off under pressure from Clippers guard Terry Dehere.

Associated Press
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 11, 1996
Words:462
Previous Article:10-YEAR-OLD: YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG TO PITCH IN.
Next Article:REDEMPTION COMES SWIFTLY : AFTER YET ANOTHER MISFIRE, AIKMAN LEADS DALLAS WIN.


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