Lakers Get Past Clippers : Magic Scores 25, Has 21 Assists in 111-102 Win
The Clippers, who had won 5 of 6 games at the Sports Arena, put out the welcome mat for the Lakers Tuesday night.
Though the Lakers were riding a 4-game win streak, the Clippers, who had lost 4 straight, played them surprisingly even for 3 1/2 quarters.
After that, however, it was another dose of Magic Johnson and just plain superiority that lifted the Lakers to a 111-102 victory before a sellout crowd of 15,352. The Clippers have now lost 21 of 24 meetings with the Lakers since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Magic Johnson had no 3-point shots at the buzzer. He was outstanding the entire game en route to 25 points, 21 assists and 8 rebounds.
His play down the stretch was critical. He came in with 6:49 remaining and the Lakers ahead, 95-94. He played the rest of the way, and the Lakers took control.
“Down the stretch, they’re used to those type of games,” said Ken Norman, who led the Clippers with 24 points. “They know what they have to do.”
The Lakers, who improved to 13-3, started to pull away with about 10 minutes to play, turning a 91-90 lead into a 103-96 edge with 5 minutes left. The run included 5 points each from Mychal Thompson and Michael Cooper.
The advantage then went as high as 9 several times, first at 107-98 on a pair of free throws by Johnson with 3:48 to play.
The Clippers (6-11) went the last 12:30 of the game without backup center Benoit Benjamin, who was ejected for the second time this season.
Near the end of the third quarter, Benjamin, who had 13 points and 5 rebounds in just 18 minutes, and Laker counterpart Mark McNamara squared off, each taking a couple of swings.
Benjamin, playing his second game since being demoted, was averaging 15.4 points a game, while McNamara was averaging only 2.7 points per game. The bigger loss clearly belonged to the Clippers.
“It hurt, because that was another player I didn’t have to put in,” Clipper Coach Gene Shue said. “He was dominating McNamara, so it was a good exchange for them at that point.”
It was a point Laker Coach Pat Riley couldn’t disagree with.
“I’ll let you decide that,” he replied when asked if the Benjamin-for-McNamara trade-off helped the Lakers.
Others did just that.
“It was a close game until he went out,” Cooper said. “If he’s not doing anything else, at least he’s clogging the middle.”
Added Byron Scott, who scored 20 points: “It definitely was in our favor. They lost a front-line player.”
The dead-ball fight came with the Lakers leading, 87-86, and 30 seconds left to play in the third quarter. It began away from the play, after Joe Wolf had been fouled by Johnson and was on his way to the free-throw line. McNamara took a swing, and Benjamin retaliated. Double-technical fouls were assessed, and both players were ejected.
Benjamin had left the arena before the game had ended, but McNamara stayed around to defend his actions.
“I’m a nonviolent person,” he said. “For me, it was strictly a defensive move. This was my first technical ever, even in high school or college. I don’t like to cause problems, but I’ve got to protect myself.
“I was playing weakside D, and he (Benjamin) was elbowing me. I considered that an offensive act. I asked him to stop. He got up in my face and I pushed him away. He came back and started swinging. I got him with an open-handed shot. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over. I’ve forgotten it.”
Following what has already become a common story line, the Clippers returned home from a couple of embarrassing performances on the road to look very impressive.
Against the Lakers, they took a 5-point lead early, 14-9, and led at the end of the first quarter, 32-30, that close only because Cooper hit a 3-point shot with 4 seconds left.
The second quarter produced 12 lead changes. The final one came when Gary Grant sliced his way through traffic for a layup with 1 second left to give the Clippers a 58-57 advantage at halftime.
Three Clippers were in double figures by the start of the third quarter, while Johnson--who began the night averaging a triple double in the last 4 games, with 29.5 points, 15.5 assists and 10 rebounds--had 14 of his team’s 16 first-half assists.
Things went so well for the Clippers in the first half that the Lakers were able to convert 7 turnovers into only 2 points.
The game, of course, eventually turned. The Clippers committed a season-low 13 turnovers, but the Lakers made up for that by hitting 28 of 38 free throws. The Clippers got to the line only 16 times, making 12.
Forward Charles Smith, the Clippers’ leading scorer at 17.8 points a game, was given a medical clearance by team physician Tony Daly and is expected to be in uniform Thursday against Houston at the Sports Arena. Smith missed his mandatory fifth straight game Tuesday while on the injured list with a sprained left knee. . . . Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who missed his fourth straight outing, will be examined this morning by Dr. Robert Kerlan to determine whether he will play tonight against the Phoenix Suns at the Forum. “I hope that in the morning, he’ll give me the OK,” Abdul-Jabbar said, adding that the swelling in his badly bruised right knee has subsided. . . . Clipper guard Quintin Dailey came in having hit 24 of his last 27 free throws over 7 games (88.9%).