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Lakers Have an Easy Time With Jazz : Layden’s Refrain Familiar After L.A.'s 113-92 Victory

Times Staff Writer

Frank Layden, a man with a quip for every occasion, had plenty of time in the fourth quarter to formulate just the proper comedic response to a Laker blowout Friday night that could not have been too funny for the Utah coach.

So, after the Lakers finally put away the Jazz, 113-92, in the teams’ first meeting since last spring’s competitive playoff series, Layden hitched up his considerable belt and belted out his monologue.

“I think they are a better team than they were a year ago; I mean that,” said Layden, setting up the punch line. “It would probably be easier for all concerned if they just ordered the rings, the hats and T-shirts right now.

“It would save the NBA Properties department a lot of time. All they have to do is change all the 8s to 9s (for 1989) on the rings. Now, if Detroit would just listen . . . “

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This is not the first time the Lakers have heard this act. In fact, Layden might have been guilty of stealing some of Denver Nuggets Coach Doug Moe’s material.

But the fact remains that the Lakers (11-3), at this early juncture of the National Basketball Assn. grind, are playing better than perhaps any team except for the Pistons.

They showed it once again Friday night, before a Forum crowd of 17,505, by dismantling a Jazz team that had its best November in franchise history, after having taken the Lakers to the limit in last spring’s Western Conference semifinals.

Behind Byron Scott, who scored 32 points, and Magic Johnson, who recorded his third triple-double in 14 games--17 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists--the Lakers put Utah away for good in the third quarter after gaining and then losing a big lead in the first half.

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Laker Coach Pat Riley saw the humor in Layden’s words. But he saw the truth, too.

“Frank’s got his opinion, and I agree with it,” Riley said. “We are the best team in the Western Conference. Until that gets proven differently--and it won’t be decided until the spring--I’ll still believe that.”

Utah had hoped to show the Forum crowd, as well as a national cable-television audience, that its challenge against the Lakers last season was no fluke. Instead, it merely reinforced the thinking that they are at least one notch below the Lakers in the NBA hierarchy.

The Laker defense forced 15 Jazz turnovers and limited Utah to a 42.2% shooting night. In the decisive third quarter, the Jazz shot just 27.8%.

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Layden went with his reserves for the entire fourth quarter, mostly because the starters were ineffective. Point guard John Stockton, who sat most of the first quarter because of foul trouble, was limited to 3 points and 5 assists. Stockton, the league leader in assists, had been averaging 14 assists a game.

And in perhaps the most surprising development, the Lakers out-rebounded the Jazz, 63-50, despite playing without starting center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second straight game and having replacement Mychal Thompson on the bench for a long spell because of foul trouble.

Those facts elicited nothing but apologies from the Jazz, who were hoping for so much more. “For sure, that wasn’t the same (Utah) team you saw (last spring),” said Utah forward Karl Malone, limited to 15 points. “A lot of people probably saw this game, I mean nationally on TV, and said, ‘Well, it’s the same old Utah Jazz.’ But don’t write us off yet.”

The Lakers haven’t.

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“They’re definitely the same team, the same bodies,” Riley said of the Jazz (9-5.) “Our guys just took the challenge. We went to our playoff mentality tonight.”

Added James Worthy, who scored 21 points: “We were ready. There’s a rivalry now. We are not fooling ourselves. They are a great team. We respect them.”

Maybe the rest of the Lakers turned their intensity level up a notch, but Johnson was dominating as usual. He made 8 of 12 shots (including all 6 he attempted in the first quarter), and his passing was responsible for many of Scott’s 32 points.

Had Johnson had 1 more rebound in Wednesday night’s victory over the Seattle SuperSonics, he would be carrying a 3-game triple-double streak.

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The production from Scott and Worthy had to be a welcome sight for the Lakers, since both were coming off season-lows in the Seattle game.

Scott, who scored just 10 points against the SuperSonics, had eclipsed that 5 minutes into the first quarter. With the Jazz often double-teamming Johnson, who posted low often, Scott found himself open and wasn’t afraid to shoot. He made 13 of 27 shots, including 2 3-point attempts.

“It was good to see Byron back, after he had a couple of bad scoring games,” Riley said.

Worthy had a poor shooting night (7 of 20), but he got 9 rebounds and worked well inside against the Jazz.

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But Layden, as with every other coach, looked at Johnson as the Laker catalyst.

“He’s probably getting smarter,” Layden said of Johnson. “When they get older and start losing some of those physical attributes, they become smarter.

“I don’t want to see the headlines saying, ‘Layden Says Magic Slowed Up.’ If he stays smarter, he’ll probably have the best year he’s ever had.”

And Layden wasn’t joking, either.

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Laker Notes

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had his badly bruised right knee examined again Friday by team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan. Abdul-Jabbar said the knee is still swollen but improving. His status for Sunday night’s game against the Washington Bullets at the Forum remains in doubt. “I’m just going to have to wait and see,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “If it keeps (healing) like it is, I could play in the next few days.” Abdul-Jabbar said physical therapy has not been prescribed. “They don’t want to put stress on it until we’re positive it’s not going to bleed again.” . . . Laker and Forum owner Jerry Buss has called a news conference for Monday to announce a name change for the building that Jack Kent Cooke built. Sources said it will be called the Great Western Forum, named after the savings and loan company that apparently has ties with Buss. Among the changes will be a new scoreboard with the firm’s name prominently displayed. Reaction from Laker players ranged from disbelief to disinterest. “Great Western Forum?” Mychal Thompson exclaimed. “That sounds like a barbecue place. What they should call it is the Abdul Arena or Kareem’s Kastle, and they should do it on his last game. That would be fitting.” And this from Magic Johnson: “Doesn’t matter. I still got to go to work.” . . . Utah guard Bob Hansen, who has missed every game so far this season with a broken left hand, was not activated for Friday night’s game, as the Jazz had hoped. Hansen accompanied the Jazz on the trip to Los Angeles, but he is not expected to return for another week.


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