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Lakers Drive Point Home Again With 126-96 Win Over Spurs

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Another home victory, if not guaranteed, at least was routinely enough acquired by the Lakers, whose cracks and fissures this season aren’t as noticeable inside the Forum.

Sunday night, the latest Forum foil to easily succumb was the San Antonio Spurs, a 126-96 loser to the Lakers before a crowd of 17,505 that has come to expect such things.

What they witnessed yet again was home version of the Lakers’ game, which runs the fast break as smooth as ever, makes a high percentage of its shots and rarely lets a lead dwindle to the critical stage.

The Spurs obviously like the road version much better, beating the Lakers by 16 points in San Antonio in November, a loss the Lakers had not forgotten.

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“We did to them what they did to us down there,” Magic Johnson said.

This redeeming victory, coming against a team that has won only 2 road games this season, was almost too easy for the Lakers, who had 8 players score in double figures.

Leading the way, as usual, was Magic Johnson, with 16 points, 17 assists and 8 rebounds. Byron Scott, Michael Cooper and Tony Campbell each added 17 points. And Cooper, starting at small forward for the first time this season because James Worthy’s bruised left knee had not recovered enough to play, also limited Spur rookie Willie Anderson to 19 points.

Still the National Basketball Association’s only unbeaten team at home, at 13-0, the Lakers will briefly interrupt their Forum bashing to travel to Sacramento Tuesday and attempt to halt a 7-game road losing streak.

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Coming off 3 home victories in which the combined winning margin was 75 points, Laker players believe that this success will travel to Northern California with them.

“When you get 3 or 4 wins at home, it’s got to carry over,” Scott said. “I think the games at home have given us the confidence we hadn’t had before.”

Laker Coach Pat Riley stopped short of predicting that the Laker road losing streak, 1 short of tying the franchise record, would end Tuesday night.

But he, too, expressed a confidence based on the recent home triumphs.

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“Somewhere, sometime, this has to stop,” Riley said. “But I don’t want this to hang over our shoulders. We want to leave that baggage behind and just go up there and play the game we are capable of playing on the road.”

In the Lakers’ last road game, a 10-point loss to Seattle, Cooper played 3 uninspired minutes in the first half and was benched for the entire second half. But Sunday night, Cooper left those memories behind, as he resurrected his game in a start necessitated by Worthy’s bruised left knee.

Just as Orlando Woolridge eventually used an earlier road benching as inspiration for a home revival, Cooper did so on this night. He scored 9 points in the first quarter, when the Lakers rolled to a 16-point lead, and 8 in the third quarter, when the Lakers put away the Spurs for good.

Cooper’s 3-point shot with 7:31 to play in the third quarter turned a 9-point Laker lead into 12. And the Spurs never cut it back to single-digits after that.

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But Cooper’s primary contribution was his defense against Willie Anderson, the high-scoring rookie from Georgia. Anderson had scored 36 points in each of the Spurs last 2 games, victories over Philadelphia at home and at Golden State.

Sunday, however, Anderson was limited to 4 points by Cooper in the second half.

“Coop, as a starter, did what he’s supposed to do,” Riley said. “He really did a good job holding down Anderson. It wasn’t easy.”

Added Johnson: "(Cooper) stayed with (Anderson) and made him shoot shots that were out of his range. He made some outside shots, but he didn’t get the inside ones.”

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Cooper wasn’t the only Laker playing good defense. Riley attributed the Spurs’ 36.8 percent shooting from the field to the Lakers’ improved “transition defense” that stifled San Antonio’s quick guards.

The only Laker lull came in the second quarter, when they allowed San Antonio to put their transition game in gear and pull to within 6 points at halftime. Part of the Lakers’ problems in the second quarter were self-induced. They failed to score on 6 straight possessions midway through the quarter, 4 times turning over the ball and twice missing jump shots.

“We turned it over too much in the second quarter,” Johnson said. “They got back in the ballgame because we turned it over.”

But Johnson did not seem too concerned. After all, the Lakers recovered quite nicely in the third quarter and made it a 30-point rout.

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Now, however, comes a return to the road.

“We have momentum now,” Johnson said. “We’ve been at home for a while. We’ve practice. We’re ready.”

Laker Notes

Donnie Walsh, the Indiana Pacers’ general manager, and George Irvine, the Pacers’ vice president of basketball operations, attended Sunday night’s game. They are believed to be interested in hiring Lakers assistant Randy Pfund as an assistant to new Pacer Coach Dick Versace.

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Mark McNamara missed his fourth straight game because of the flu. But the Lakers’ reserve center did put in an appearance at the Forum for the first time in a week. McNamara said that he was a bedridden for several days and still is too weak to practice. “It figures, whenever I get sick, I always miss a game against someone like Miami (where he figured to play a lot),” McNamara said. . . The Lakers just concluded 3-game home stand, equaling their longest of the season to date. But Sunday’s game was the third in a stretch in which the Lakers play 9 of 11 at the Forum. The 2 road games are at Sacramento Tuesday night and at the Sports Arena against the Clippers Sunday . . . Willie Anderson, Spur starting forward, turned 22 Sunday night.


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