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By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Thursday night's game between Tampa Bay and Detroit was exactly what the American Basketball Association had in mind when it kicked off its first season two weeks ago.
Two ABA legends -- Tampa Bay coach Darryl Dawkins and Detroit coach George Gervin -- squaring off on the sidelines and a well-played, high-scoring game on the court.
For three quarters it was exactly what the ThunderDawgs had in mind too -- lots of running, some alley-oop dunks and a few three-pointers.
Then came the fourth quarter, the end of a 13-1 Detroit run and a 112-105 Tampa Bay loss in front of about 200 spectators at the Times Bayfront Arena.
The loss extends the 'Dawgs streak to three games, including two in a row at home. Tampa Bay (1-4) hosts undefeated Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday.
For 36 minutes, everything went right for the ThunderDawgs. John Strickland ruled the inside with a pair of dunks and a three-point layup after a steal in the backcourt. Dametri Hill came off the bench to make two long jumpers and drop in some layups, and Nate Higgs followed up missed shots with put-back dunks.
Newly signed 7-foot-2 Dnongo Ndiaye got into the action, blocking two shots and scoring six points down low as Tampa Bay jumped to a 16-point lead with less than four minutes to go in the third quarter. Then the other Dogs came alive.
Detroit went on a 24-9 binge to end the third quarter, including a four-point shot from just behind midcourt by Kelli Taylor at the buzzer to cut the score to 80-79. That span included a 13-1 streak in the final 1:25.
"I need players with experience, players who know how to play with a lead. I can't wait around for these guys," Dawkins said. "The game was clearly not over and they just stopped playing. One good thing about this is you can only go up from here."
The 'Dawgs signed Ndiaye on Thursday and are expected to sign former NBA player Lloyd Daniels today. Dawkins said he will add two more before the weekend, including at least one former NBA player. To make room on the roster, Tampa Bay released Kwame Evans and Dominic Young.