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CLIPS EARN 1ST WIN OF YEAR ON HISTORIC NIGHT

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It is a historic night.

I drive to the Sports Arena to see the Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. On the way, I wonder if Orange County really is bankrupt, or if it just claimed that it was in order to discourage the Clippers from moving there. I ponder this.I arrive at the Sports Arena. I hear chatter from a scalper: "Who needs tickets?" Funny guy.

I enter. I notice that ushers actually are asking patrons if they need help finding their seats. I admire these workers for their diligence, but I also figure that if there is a downsizing on the horizon, I know who's going first.

The game begins. I notice that the upper level is fairly empty. So is the middle level. Most of the fans have crammed into the choice lower-level seats, which also are not yet filled. I figure it must be a late-arriving crowd. Maybe everyone will be in their seats by March.

I read the game notes. I notice that the Clippers are 0-5 in games in which they score more than 100 points, and 0-11 in games in which they score fewer than 100 points. I see a trend emerging.

The game starts. A fan yells out, "We want the record!" This is what is known as a die-easy Clippers fan.

I look around at the crowd. I remember that I did not bring my earplugs. I remember that I did not bring my cross-country skis, either, which would be just as relevant.

The first quarter ends. The Clippers trail, 27-24. I notice no shocked expressions.

I see three men dressed in warmups performing a promotional stunt in the stands during timeouts. One has a small portable basket and backboard strapped to his back. The other two toss small basketballs to fans and ask them to shoot it into the portable hoop. The fans do so.

This causes me to look at the Clippers' shooting percentages in the stats. Then I look back at the fans. Then I look back at the stats again. I begin to question the entire college draft system as it applies to the Clippers.

It is halftime. The Clippers have forged ahead, 52-49. Try as I might, I can't recall what the topic is on "Nightline," but I suppose it can be changed on short notice.

The Clippers had three players in double figures in the first half, led by Loy Vaught with 18. The Bucks only had one. The Clippers had a higher shooting percentage, 52 to 51 - and matched the Bucks in rebounds with 18. I then look at the bottom of the halftime box to see if there's a copyright. It's there. Just making sure.

The Bucks have a player named Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. He was the one who asked for $100 million but settled for something like $67 million. I see that Robinson is tearing up the Clippers. I figure it means he is either worth $100 million after all, or anyone with a pulse and a pair of sneakers could now make a case for $67 million.

The Clippers make a run. They push their lead to 60-53 on an easy fast-break layup by Vaught. I imagine this will be on the highlight film. I imagine the running time of the highlight film will be indicated in seconds.

The Bucks are forced to call a timeout. They look disoriented, out of sync, confused. The Clippers appear confident and poised. They are seizing the moment. Of course, they waited until the 17th game to seize the moment, but why quibble?

With 2:35 left in the third quarter, an announcement goes out: "Terry Dehere has a sprained right ankle. He will not return." Ever?

Milwaukee's Jon Barry hits a 3-pointer with under one second remaining and the Clippers lead by only 66-63 after three quarters. The crowd is restless. You can tell just by listening, only you have to be really still.

In the final minutes, the place takes on a playoff atmosphere. The fans are screaming. The players are snarling. The cheerleaders are dancing. I look around the energy-charged arena and I think to myself, "These are two of the worst basketball teams I've ever seen."

The Clippers win, 96-94, in overtime on a Pooh Richardson jumper at the buzzer. The streak ends. They are now 1-16. I notice the date. It is Dec. 7. I remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 "a day that will live in infamy." I realize that Dec. 7, 1994 will live in infamy, too. At least in Milwaukee.

I applaud the Clippers. They played hard. They showed courage. They deserved to win. And I don't like seeing anyone continue to suffer.

Especially me.