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Spurs Put Silencer on Detractors : Laker Prediction of a Tough Series Starts to Come True

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

The San Antonio Spurs earned a spot in pro basketball history by becoming the sixth team to lose 50 or more games and still qualify for the playoffs.

And National Basketball Assn. insiders felt the Spurs looked more like a lottery team than a playoff team.

Coach Pat Riley of the Lakers, however, predicted the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the Spurs wouldn’t be a mismatch.

“I told people last week that it would be one of the most competitive series we’ve ever been in and they all laughed,” Riley said.

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Nobody’s laughing at Riley’s prediction now.

The Spurs jumped out to a 14-point first-quarter lead against the Lakers in Game 2 of their best-of-five playoff series Sunday night at the Forum.

“We didn’t take them lightly,” Riley said of the Spurs. “They’re a competitive team.”

Said Laker guard Magic Johnson: “San Antonio is a lot better than Denver (the Lakers’ first round opponent in 1987) was last year. It’s going to be a lot different playoffs than people anticipated for everyone. San Antonio is a good basketball team.”

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The turning point for the Lakers came when Spur center Frank Brickowski went to the bench after he was called for his fifth foul with 5:01 remaining in the third period.

Brickowski, called for blocking a drive by Johnson, thought he didn’t foul Magic on the play.

“What can I say, Magic drove the lane, dropped his shoulder and yelled and I picked up my fifth foul,” Brickowski said. “I don’t think that one play cost us the game, but it was definitely a big play.

“I don’t feel it was a very good call, but you can’t criticize the officials. They do the best job they can. It definitely affected the momentum of the game.”

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Johnson had a different version of the play, claiming that Brickowski made contact with him as he drove the key.

“He (Brickowski) bodied me,” Johnson said. “I had the lane and he came out and bodied me and knocked me off a little.”

Spur Coach Bob Weiss tried three players at center in place of Brickowski--Ed Nealy, Petur Gudmundsson and Kurt Nimphius--but none of them were effective as the Lakers turned a one-point San Antonio lead into an 18-point win.

“It was a big play,” Weiss said of Brickowski’s fifth foul. “It hurt us because they were able to exploit the matchups at center. They’re so good that when they have a mismatch they really exploit you.”

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The Lakers took command of the game with Brickowski on the bench, blitzing the Spurs, 24-7, en route to a 130-112 win before a sellout crowd of 17,505. The Lakers, who have a 2-0 lead in the series, can advance to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Spurs Tuesday night at San Antonio.

“We’re going home with the idea of winning two straight against the Lakers,” Brickowski said. “We’re not concerned about pride. In order to win both we must be more unselfish. We’re a little anxious with the ball so we must rely more on the team concept.”

If all of the Spurs played as well as guard Alvin Robertson has against the Lakers, San Antonio might be two games up instead of one game away from elimination.

Robertson, who scored a career-playoff high 34 points Friday night in the opening game of the series, scored a team-high 28 points and had 12 assists Sunday night.

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“I think this is his best year,” Magic said of Robertson. “He has really added something to his game.”

Robertson said the Spurs will have to play better to beat the Lakers Tuesday night.

“We’ve got to keep working,” Robertson said. “We came out strong in the first half but we weren’t able to sustain it in the second half. We should have come out in the third quarter like we did in the first.”

Spurs center Greg (Cadillac) Anderson also played well, scoring 18 points.

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“The Lakers are the best team in the world,” Anderson said. “In order to beat them we’ve got to play a great game.”


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