THE NBA PLAYOFFS : WEST : Lakers Rambis, Lucas Go After Olajuwon Again
Now that it’s time for Game 2 between the Lakers and Houston Rockets, Akeem Olajuwon has chosen to mark the occasion by revealing just what must be done in order to stop him.
For the Lakers, the news is not good, since forklifts on the floor are illegal.
“Whatever it takes to score, I can do it all,” Olajuwon said. “I think.”
That can’t be real comforting to Kurt Rambis and Maurice Lucas.
They are the lucky Lakers who have drawn the assignment of doing something about Olajuwon, who put up the kind of numbers in Game 1 that some players only dream about.
In fact, Lucas has already begun dreaming. The subject was reincarnation.
“If I was to come back in another life as a basketball player, I would like to be in Akeem’s body,” he said. “I could do a world of hurt with that body.”
Despite his 28 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, Olajuwon could not prevent the Rockets from a 119-107 flameout, so he was prevented from inflicting a universe of hurt on the Lakers.
The Lakers have a chance to go 2-up on the Rockets in their Western Conference final series at the Forum tonight. If it happens it probably will mean that Rambis and Lucas had a hand in it. Not to mention a knee, an elbow or a forearm.
“The guy is so thick,” Lucas said.
“Since he’s a 7-footer and goes about 250 pounds easy, he’s not your normal power forward,” Lucas said. “You just can’t push him out of position.”
The Lakers are going to try anyway. Maybe getting in his way would be a good place to start. Maybe being realistic about it would be even better.
“I may get my butt kicked, but at least I’m going to try,” Rambis said.
Putting the stops on Olajuwon is not what you would consider a choice assignment. But then neither was defending against Mark Aguirre, and that is what Pat Riley asked of Rambis and Lucas in the semifinal against Dallas.
Rambis stuck his feet in a bucket of ice after practice Monday and thought about his recent run of good luck.
“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do, going from Aguirre to Olajuwon, with the possible exception of cutting my throat shaving,” he said.
That’s the spirit. What did you expect? Do not expect platitudes in this situation. The mission is not impossible, only nearly so.
Here’s what Rambis and Lucas have to do: prevent Olajuwon from leaping all over the place, block him off the backboards, put a hand in his face when he shoots those little turnaround jumpers, and keep him from dunking at will. That’s all.
Only two years removed from the University of Houston, where he was a charter member of Phi Slama Jama, Olajuwon probably dunks in his sleep--while wearing his Phi Slama pajamas, naturally.
Rambis and Lucas each did a respectable job on Olajuwon in Game 1, no matter what the box score said. At least they were able to use their inside strength for once, instead of chasing Aguirre around on the open court.
“Checking Mark Aguirre will shorten your career,” Lucas said. “Akeem won’t break your knees when he moves.”
The Rockets have their own problems, trying to defend against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which they didn’t do very well in Game 1, and the Lakers figure that their chances of going 2-0 are pretty good if Olajuwon doesn’t go wild on them.
Magic Johnson believes that how well Rambis and Lucas do against Olajuwon may be the critical aspect of the series.
“It’s the biggest assignment on the team, no question about it,” Johnson said. “Pretty soon, it’s going to be his league.”
Olajuwon finished with eight offensive rebounds in Game 1, nearly equaling the entire Laker team total of 10. Riley said he never took his eye off Olajuwon.
“Every time they shot the ball, I was looking for Akeem,” Riley said. “Then I’m yelling, ‘Box out!’ ”
Olajuwon, like the rest of the Rockets, remains optimistic about sending the series back to Houston tied, 1-1, regardless of who is on him in Game 2.
“Kurt Rambis, you can’t take him for granted,” Olajuwon said. “He’s not a great player, but he gets the job done.”
Riley won’t leave either Rambis or Lucas alone on Olajuwon. The Lakers plan to double-team both Olajuwon and Sampson if they get the ball near the basket and that means that the Rockets must shoot well from the perimeter to counter such a defense.
If they don’t, a 2-0 Laker edge in the series might not be far behind, even if Olajuwon shows the Lakers the bottom of his sneakers.
Laker Notes Michael Cooper did not practice Monday because of a skin rash. Cooper has played in 415 consecutive games, including playoffs, but his streak may be in jeopardy. Coach Pat Riley believes, however, that Cooper will play in Game 2 tonight. “Even if we have to wrap him in gauze,” Riley said. . . . The Lakers announced that Ronnie Lester will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this morning. Lester, who played in 27 regular-season games, is not on the Lakers’ playoff roster. . . . Akeem Olajuwon finished one vote behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and wound up on the second-team All-NBA list announced Monday by the league. “I’ll settle for that,” Olajuwon said. “He’s Jabbar. He’s a legend. I’m happy with it. I didn’t think I would get that much credit anyway. This is still a big deal for me.” . . . Abdul-Jabbar has scored at least 25 points in each of his last eight playoff games and is averaging 29 in that span, and 30.5 in his last four. Abdul-Jabbar is averaging 25.8 points in the playoffs to lead the Lakers. The all-time playoff leader in points, Abdul-Jabbar has outscored the entire Houston roster, 4,808-2,256, in postseason play. . . . Magic Johnson, who matched his playoff high this season with 18 assists in Game 1, is averaging 14.8 assists in the Lakers’ 10 playoff games. . . . Tonight’s game will be televised by the Prime Ticket Network. It is also being televised nationally by WTBS, but blacked out in L.A. WTBS is not televising tonight’s Boston-Milwaukee playoff game. . . . Game 3 of the Laker-Houston series Friday night will be delayed until 11:30 p.m. by Channel 2, a station spokesperson said Monday.