SuperSonics Are Down but Not Discouraged

Times Staff Writer

So now the SuperSonics are down 2-0 to the Lakers, which means that something must be going wrong, right?

Maybe it's time to check their itinerary. The best-of-seven series shifts back to Seattle for the next two games, but maybe the SuperSonics should stay here. After they lost Game 1, the SuperSonics flew back home for a couple of days and that sure didn't work.

They should change their travel plans. Hang out at the beach. Be lounge lizards out by the pool. Give those sneakers a rest.

Try something different. Be daring. Stick around for a while and maybe your luck will change.

"You know, we're thinking about doing that," Seattle Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.

He didn't mean it. But forward Tom Chambers sure meant what he said when he talked about the officiating in Tuesday night's 112-104 loss to the Lakers.

How did you like it, Tom?

"We got shafted," he said.

What about the Laker defense then?

"Tonight it was more Ed Middleton, I think," he said.

Middleton is probably one of the National Basketball Assn.'s best officials, but Chambers didn't think he showed it. Maybe that was because Chambers had so much trouble out on the floor. He took only four shots and missed them all in the second half.

Chambers did not score a point in the second half, and in the first half, he endured the sight of James Worthy torching him for 25 of his playoff-high 30 points. Chambers finished with five fouls, but he had only one while Worthy was going crazy.

The problem was pretty easy to spot, Chambers said. It was carrying a whistle.

"Every time we got a surge going, the game stopped," he said. "I think Eddie Middleton had a wager on the game. We had five team fouls to one of theirs every quarter and they were bumping and pushing just as much as we were. You can't fault our effort.

"We hung tight here," he said. "We weren't even supposed to come in here and keep it close, and we almost sneaked away with one anyway.

"I know that the Forum is their place, but I don't think we got a fair shake out there," Chambers said.

This may be faulty reasoning, said teammate Xavier McDaniel.

"We can't be worrying about the officiating," McDaniel said. "We got to worry about ourselves."

Things to worry about are in no short supply right now for the SuperSonics, who know they just about have to win twice in Seattle in order to keep their surprising season from ending surprisingly early.

First and foremost, Bickerstaff said, the SuperSonics must rebound a whole lot better than they did Tuesday night. The Lakers had a 42-29 advantage on the backboards and if you're Bickerstaff, you hate to see that happen.

"I'm not concerned about the offense," he said. "My complaint is about the boards. I have no concern at all about our offensive firepower. Tom can't get into the offense every night. We just did not do a good job rebounding."

Here is a list of the SuperSonics who did. McDaniel and Nate McMillan. McDaniel stuck his shaved head beneath the backboards and found eight rebounds. McMillan was the only other Seattle player with more than four and he had six. McMillan is also a guard.

"I know Bernie is going to be mad at us about the rebounding," McDaniel said.

Too late. Bernie already is.

But it's not too late for the SuperSonics, he insisted. The sun has not yet set on their season. In fact, Bickerstaff is still sending out encouraging signals.

"Even when the sun doesn't rise in the Pacific Northwest, I'm still positive," he said.

If the sun ever rises in the west, we're on to one big story here. But the SuperSonics still feel they're writing a pretty special story themselves. Things will be a lot different once they get home, they said.

"All the Lakers have done is what they were supposed to do-- win," Bickerstaff said. "And they struggled to do it."

McDaniel said it's now up to the SuperSonics to keep on playing and come back to the Forum for a Game 5, maybe even a Game 7. That's not fantasy, is it?

"We've got to forget these two losses," he said. "It's going to be wild up at our place. And you know, most teams in the NBA are not going to come in and beat the Lakers at home. That's reality."

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