When Mike Smrek takes his accustomed spot on the Laker bench tonight, the curtain may drop on the National Basketball Assn.'s greatest one-man show this side of Michael Jordan.
Mike Smrek, offensive machine?
No, silly, Magic Johnson, who in the absence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the biggest scoring night of his career Tuesday in Sacramento, pouring in 46 points on 36 shots, more than he has ever attempted in a game.
The Lakers won two of the three games they played without Abdul-Jabbar, all on the road, including one in Houston against the Rockets, tonight's opponent. Abdul-Jabbar, who has been out with an eye irritation, will shed his patch for his goggles and play tonight.
Smrek, who started in Abdul-Jabbar's place, scored three points in three games. Someone had to make up the difference, and not surprisingly it was Johnson, whose most memorable game still remains Game 6 of the 1980 finals, another game missed by Abdul-Jabbar, when he jumped center, played all five positions and scored 42 points in a title-winning performance.
Forty-point nights, of course, have become second nature to Jordan, Chicago's most famous triggerman since Al Capone.
They could be routine for Magic, too, according to Laker Coach Pat Riley. All the Lakers would have to do is ask.
"He could do it, if he took 30 shots a game," Riley said. "Even if he took 10 bad ones, which is about as many as Jordan takes, the other 20 would be good ones."
In the last half-dozen games, Johnson is averaging 34.7 points a game, 16.4 points above his career average. At the same time, he's averaging 11.8 assists, about the same as his league-leading average, and 10.8 rebounds.
"I've seen him do things I haven't seen him do before," said A.C. Green, the Lakers' second-year forward. "He's creating shots, making passes I've never seen. It's amazing."
The Lakers are asking Johnson to shoot more even when Abdul-Jabbar is present--he took 25 shots in a win against the Celtics, 30 the next night in a loss to the Pistons. But it's still unLaker-like for Johnson to have the kind of night like he had in Sacramento.
"If I'd gotten the triple-double (one assist short), it probably would have gone down as one of my best games," Johnson said. "It's hard to rate 'em, when you're playing. There's no time to rate 'em."
Laker guard Byron Scott also scored a career-high 33 points against Sacramento, on a night in which he made just 2 of 7 shots in the first half.
"His baskets off the early transition are killers," Riley said. "And the way his shot was coming off his hand, it was like Paul Westhead once said: 'Snow falling off a bamboo leaf.' "
In his last three games, all played with a smaller cast on his left thumb, Green is averaging 18.3 points and 15.7 rebounds.
MAGIC JOHNSON'S LAST 6 GAMES
Opponent FG m/a FT a/m Pts Reb A Sacramento 17/36 12/16 46 10 9 Houston 11/18 16/16 38 8 16 Dallas 11/22 12/12 34 7 15 Cleveland 10/19 5/8 25 11 14 Detroit 13/30 8/8 34 9 9 Boston 13/25 5/7 31 7 8 Totals 75/150 58/67 208 52 71
Avg. shots attempted: 25; Avg. points: 34.7
Avg. rebounds: 8.7; Avg. assists: 11.8