Please Stand By--Showtime Will Be Back Shortly

Do not adjust your set, home viewers. The technical difficulties the Lakers are experiencing are not the fault of your TV. They are real.

It's called winning ugly.

Kicking your TV set won't bring back Showtime. Just bear with us, ladies and gentlemen.

Yes, the Lakers are reeling, staggering, bleeding and gasping.

Fortunately for the Lakers, they also hold a 2-0 lead over the Seattle SuperSonics in the Western Conference finals after Tuesday night's 112-104 win.

But if this keeps up, fans are going to start demanding refunds. If George Steinbrenner owned the Lakers, he would be issuing a public apology, and threatening to send the starting five to the Continental Basketball Assn.

Fortunately, Jerry Buss has the patience of a saint, and probably won't even fire the coaching staff or ballboys today, or order a mandatory workout for his team.

Am I overreacting?

Maybe. Maybe. But it's the Lakers' fault. They spoiled us. Against the SuperSonics, anything less than a 50-point blitzathon is a letdown.

"You're not measured just on winning (in Los Angeles)," Laker Coach Pat Riley said Tuesday afternoon, "but on how you win. There's a degree of difficulty involved, and we have to do full gainers all the time."

In his postgame press conference, Riley explained why he's giving the Lakers the day off from practice today.

"I think that's one of the problems," Riley said, "working too long and too hard."

That explains why the Lakers are only 9-1 in the playoffs, and are in danger of having the current series extended to maybe five games, if Seattle can get hot.

Riley apologized more.

"We have to be more defined, more alert and more aggressive," he said.

The Lakers are lucky the fans didn't storm the exits at halftime in protest. The best thing the Lakers can do now is get out of town fast and not read the morning reviews. The critics have got to be livid.

Hey, Magic calls himself an MVP? And all he could come up with was 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 20 points?

OK, let's take a deep breath here. The Lakers aren't panicking, why should the fans and critics? Through the doors of the Laker shower room Tuesday night, eavesdroppers could hear shouting and frivolity.

The truth is the Lakers feel pretty good. They haven't whipped out full-scale Showtime in this series yet and they're up 2-0 against a very tough and determined Sonic team.

In the playoffs, a lot of the frill gets trimmed off a team like the Lakers. You get down to more basic stuff.

Instead of glamour, the Lakers went to the hammer. They outpounded Seattle on the backboards, 42-29. A.C. Green, the most improved Laker this season and a vital guy in the playoffs, was the key man Tuesday.

A.C. spark plugged away for 14 rebounds--half of them on the offensive boards. No Sonic had more than eight rebounds.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had seven rebounds, but five of them were offensive. A good sign, Kareem going to the offensive boards. At 7 feet 2 inches, he can tip in five or six shots by accident.

The truth is, the Lakers are in good shape. They'd prefer to win by 70 and score every point on a triple pump slam off a quadruple-pass fast break, but that's not the reality of the National Basketball Assn. playoffs. Style be damned, the Lakers feel OK about the way things are going.

"We're not concerned about style points," Riley said, obviously not referring to sartorial style points. This man mows his lawn in Georgio Armani coveralls.

Cooper said: "The fans get spoiled a little bit. When it (Showtime) doesn't happen, they say something's wrong with the Lakers. But a win is a win is a win."

And this is a win Gertrude Stein could dig.

Cooper himself did another nice job on explosive Dale Ellis, who got 22 but worked for them. And Cooper hit a big three-pointer at 2:38 to give the Lakers a five-point lead and put the game away. That was a Showtime shot, wasn't it?

It probably won't get any prettier, fans. The Sonics are doing a nice job of keeping the Laker fast break from exploding, of containing Showtime.

They're losing, too, but you can't have everything.

If the Lakers get to the NBA Finals, a fairly good possibility, it won't get any prettier. The Celtics (or the Pistons, but don't count on it) will put out barbed wire and land mines before they let the Lakers run up and down the court like greyhounds.

So what if the Lakers didn't look like Greg Louganis Tuesday night. They were doing cannonballs off the high dive, but they're 2-0, they're singing in the shower and they're going to Seattle.

No apologies are in order, not yet. Do not adjust your TV sets; adjust your expectations. It's winnin' time, not party time.

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