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Without Magic, It’s Big Loss : Suns Snap Laker Win Streak, 108-93

Times Staff Writer

First the Lakers lost Magic Johnson. Then they lost their season-high 10-game winning streak.

Magic will recover, but the Lakers didn’t in time Tuesday night.

The Lakers shot a miserable .083% from the floor in the second period, and the Suns, who hadn’t won a game since March 7, went on to break a seven-game losing streak, handing the Lakers a 108-93 loss at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Johnson bruised his left calf just 4 minutes 22 seconds into the game when he collided with guard Jay Humphries of the Suns, who was trying to intercept a pass.

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Humphries’ right hip hit Johnson’s left leg and Johnson fell into the scorer’s table and collapsed at midcourt.

“I was trying to get the ball and he (Humphries) came over to try to steal it,” Johnson said. “He kneed me in the (calf) muscle and hit me in my eye.

“I have been kneed in different places before but never right there. It wasn’t a major injury; at least, it’s not a knee.”

Magic was down for several minutes before he limped off the court with help from teammates Wes Matthews and Adrian Branch.

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“The first thing that went through my mind was that I thought he had reinjured the Achilles,” Laker Coach Pat Riley said. “When they told me he had been kicked in the leg, I said ‘that’s fine.’

“There’s always a shock when one of your great ones goes down and you could feel it on the bench. Magic just got kicked in the back of the calf and we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s the same thing as a charley horse, but in the calf.

“The things we have been working on just weren’t as effective without Magic. We had 38 (fast) breaks tonight and we’ve been getting 60 and 70 in recent games. We were as slow as molasses and we just couldn’t seem to get a run going.”

After Magic was examined in the locker room, it was determined that he had suffered a contusion to his left calf.

Johnson spent the rest of the game in the Laker locker room, where he received treatment for the injury.

Asked why he didn’t return to the game, Johnson said: “It was way too painful. It had swollen up on me and I couldn’t put any pressure on it.

“I miss playing. It’s hard to sit out and watch. I’d love to play Thursday (against Detroit). We’ll just have to wait and see.”

The Lakers flew home immediately after the game, and Johnson will be examined today by Dr. Robert Kerlan, the team physician.

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“We’ll know better (today),” Laker trainer Gary Vitti said. “If he doesn’t swell up too badly, he might play Thursday. He’ll be on a day-to-day basis.”

Late in the game, a fan walking behind the Laker bench asked how Magic was. Said Vitti: “He’ll live.”

But the Lakers died without Magic.

“We’ve played without Magic before,” said forward James Worthy, who led the Lakers with 23 points. “We just didn’t adjust quickly enough without him. We didn’t mentally play the game. Physically, we were there, but we weren’t mentally.”

Said guard Michael Cooper, who replaced Johnson and had 15 points and 9 assists: “It’s kind of ironic that we would lose Magic and then the streak.”

While Johnson was simply missing, Laker forward A.C. Green was missing in action against the Suns.

Green scored just 2 points and hauled down 11 rebounds in 32 minutes. Green took only two shots from the floor.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had only 1 rebound in 34 minutes.

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But it was the second period that was a nightmare for the Lakers.

The Lakers, who made only two baskets in the period, were outscored, 28-12, and trailed 57-42 at halftime.

The Lakers missed eight consecutive shots to open the second period and 19 of their first 20 shots. They wound up hitting just 2 of 24 shots.

Trailing, 30-22, with 1:35 remaining in the first period, the Suns blitzed the Lakers, 17-4, to take a 39-34 lead with 7:14 remaining in the second period.

Phoenix forward Larry Nance was unstoppable. Nance had a game-high 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and passed off for 8 assists in 46 minutes.

“There’s not a better team in the NBA to beat outside of the Lakers to come out of a slump,” Nance said. “Hopefully, we’re out of it now. Maybe we can put a good game together for the rest of the season.

“I haven’t seen anyone, especially the Lakers, shoot the ball that bad (in the second period). But we did concentrate on defense. Maybe they had an off night, but that happens like it’s been happening to us.”

Said Sun interim Coach Dick Van Arsdale, who is 3-9 since he replaced John MacLeod last month: “I really didn’t take that much responsibility for the losses and I can’t take that much responsibility for the win tonight. It wasn’t coaching, it was the way the players came out to play. It was just a great win for them, Magic or no Magic. They’re a fine team even without him.”

Guard Walter Davis added 19 points and forward Ed Pinckney had 12 rebounds and 8 points.

The key to the win for the Suns may have been the play of 7-2 center Nick Vanos. With starting center Alvan Adams in foul trouble early in the game, Vanos picked the Suns up.

Vanos had 8 points and 5 assists in the first half as Phoenix took a 57-42 lead at halftime. He finished with 9 points and 6 assists.

“With Will (Bedford) being put on the injured list, I thought I might play a little bit,” Vanos said. “But I didn’t realize that I was going to play that much.”

Laker Notes

Another hero for the Suns may have been Stan Richards, the team’s public address announcer. After referees Ed Middleton and Mike Lauerman called eight fouls on the Suns and none on the Lakers in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game, Richards announced: “The Suns have 8 personal fouls and the Lakers none.” The crowd howled. Lauerman immediately went over to Richards and asked him not to incite the crowd. But the ploy may have worked. The Lakers got their first foul just 19 seconds later and the officials called 29 fouls on the Lakers and 24 on the Suns during the rest of the game. Sun center Alvan Adams said that Richards’ announcement was the key to the win for Phoenix. “When he announced the foul count was 8-0 in the first quarter, the referees didn’t like that,” Adams said. “He probably shouldn’t announce things like that. But it was a psychological thing.” . . . The Lakers finished the game shooting just 36.1% from the floor. They made just 30 of 83 shots.


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