Magic, Lakers Rise to Occasion : Feeling Inspired, They Turn Back 76ers, 109-104
For sources of inspiration in their 109-104 victory over the 76ers Monday night, the Lakers’ cup runneth over.
Oh, an agnostic might argue that the only religion the Lakers needed was Magic Johnson’s 32 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds, especially since he scored 12 of those points in the last 4:28, when he:
--Threw in a 3-point shot that wiped out Philadelphia’s only lead of the night.
--Switched hands in mid-drive and banked in a left-handed shot off the glass.
--Revived that old standby--the lob pass to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar--for another 3-point play that deep-sixed the Sixers.
But that would be so . . . boring, so “par for the course,” as Philadelphia Coach Jim Lynam put it afterward. Surely, there were other reasons the Lakers won Monday--for the ninth time in 12 games and third time in 4 games on this trip--besides the fact that Magic played his best game of what is rapidly shaping up to be an MVP-type season.
So the keen-eyed observer, while counting up Charles Barkley’s missed free throws--a staggering 9 in 14 attempts to besmirch a 31-point, 23-rebound night--ferrets out the subplots that separated the Lakers from the 76ers, winners of six in a row on their home floor until Monday.
For openers, there was the Living Legend theory, with farewell-tour veteran Julius Erving on hand to pay homage to Abdul-Jabbar in his last visit here.
“The greatest player in NBA history,” said Dr. J, who yielded the floor to a certified M.D. after Abdul-Jabbar bruised his right knee when A.C. Green fell on top of him in the third quarter.
Then there was the Musical Legend route, as saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. serenaded the Spectrum with Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”
“I thought we were going to have a concert,” said Laker Coach Pat Riley, who tried to keep his twitching from being too noticeable during the 22-minute pregame ceremony.
Finally, there was the Continental Basketball Assn. Legend--Tony Campbell, the erstwhile Albany Patroon, who was ejected from the game with a double technical with 6:10 to play. Campbell, who appeared to be an innocent obstacle to a Barkley steamrollering rebound after a missed Laker shot, protested too vigorously to referee Jim Kinsey.
“I said to him, ‘Sweetheart, I love you, but that was a terrible call,’ ” said Campbell, the first Laker to be bounced from a game since Michael Cooper’s scrap with Pat Cummings last season.
Besides violating the Bill Bertka Guide to Proper Ref-Baiting, the twin T’s helped grease a 10-0 76er run that pulled Philadelphia into a 93-93 tie with 4:40 to play.
Did Campbell figure he was in deep soup because of his tantrum? Au contraire.
“I think it did inspire us,” said Campbell, who was quickly reminded by Byron Scott that his brand of inspiration cost him $250--no small source of glee, incidentally, to Scott.
“At least, I hope it did,” Campbell said.
Campbell was correct in one respect: He got a reaction out of the Lakers, all right, although it wasn’t the one he expected.
“He didn’t inspire us,” Johnson said with a laugh. “We got kind of mad at him for doing it.”
Any other theories? Well, Orlando Woolridge might have had an idea or two, but he was kicked in the head with about 2 minutes to play, which left him thinking only about the golf-ball-sized knot above the back of his shirt collar.
“I was scrambling for a loose ball, and the next thing I knew my fingers were numb,” said Woolridge, who didn’t catch the number of the guy who left sneaker prints on his skull. “I couldn’t see for a while. That made me scared, which is why I was lying on the floor for as long as I did.”
In the 76er dressing room, Barkley was in no mood for deep thinking. He had labored mightily to lift the 76ers out of a 16-point first-half hole created in good measure by Magic’s 15 assists (tying an arena record) and by James Worthy, who had 18 of his 27 points and 8 of his 10 rebounds before intermission.
But in the end, Barkley said, he had only himself to blame.
“We deserved to win this game,” Barkley said. “My free-throw shooting cost us the game. I missed 9 free throws. That’s a huge number to miss.”
Besides his misses, Barkley pointed to one huge make: Magic’s three-pointer from the top of the key, which gave the Lakers the lead for keeps, 97-95, with 3:50 to go.
“Biggest play of the game,” Barkley said.
For good measure, Johnson went back-door and scored off a Scott feed to make it a 4-point lead, then tossed his lob to Abdul-Jabbar for the last of the captain’s 13 points. That one, Johnson said, was Riley’s idea.
Most everything else, he said, was his own inspiration. Oh, Riley called other plays, Johnson said.
“If he stamped his foot two times, I knew he really wanted it,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, I figured it was, ‘Go ahead, you got it.’ ”
And naturally, he delivered.
“When I can’t deliver anymore, I’ll know it’s time for me to go,” Johnson said.
“Two, three, four years, I’ll be gone. Then I’ll be delivering in a Park and Recreation League.”
And that ought to be inspiration enough for a pickup game or two.