Mavericks Give Scare to Lakers : 27-Point Lead Nearly Disappears, but L.A. Pulls Away, 115-99
They escorted heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, burly entourage in tow, onto the Forum court at halftime Friday night for a photo opportunity and television interview--and maybe just to be seen.
It could have been symbolic of the knockout, as swift and devastating as any of Tyson’s, that the Lakers seemed to have administered to the Dallas Mavericks. A 27-point Laker lead at halftime, even against a quality team such as Dallas, seemed all but insurmountable.
Third-quarter playing time for rookie David Rivers and a shortened work-day for the Laker regulars seemed as much a certainty as the Forum crowd of 17,505 making an early exit.
But the Lakers nearly lost their lead, as quickly as they had built it, when the Mavericks pulled within 7 points, 82-75, early in the fourth quarter. When pressed, however, the Lakers staged another dizzying turnaround and dismissed the Mavericks for good, 115-99, in a game that had as many mood swings as, well, Tyson.
The scene was a familiar one. On Nov. 20, 1987, the Lakers had a 27-point lead over the Mavericks at the Forum, and it dissolved to 1 point. The Lakers eventually won that one by 3.
Apparently, the Lakers did not learn from history. But in the end, they easily dispatched the team that pushed them to 7 games in the Western Conference finals last season.
For the Lakers to improve their home record to 17-0, and send the struggling Mavericks to their eighth loss in the last 11 games, required an impressive display of long-distance shooting.
The Lakers were holding a tenuous 83-75 lead with 10:54 to play when Magic Johnson beat the shot clock by swishing a 3-pointer. After Dallas’ Brad Davis scored inside, Johnson hit another 3-point shot from beyond the top of the key. Then, after a Maverick miss, Michael Cooper sank a 3-point shot that gave the Lakers a 92-77 lead.
“Three-pointers are shots we have to take advantage of,” Cooper said. “We needed them tonight. The defense gave it to us. It wasn’t a conscious thing.”
Moments later, the Mavericks were unconscious. A Laker knockout was on. But only after they had built a lead of as many as 21 points late in the game did Coach Pat Riley finally clear the bench.
Can you blame him for waiting? The Lakers, who played about as well as they can in the first half, made just 3 of 15 shots in the third quarter. Dallas, meanwhile, shot 67% and outscored the Lakers, 35-17, in the quarter.
Johnson had 30 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, and James Worthy and Byron Scott each added 17 points. Worthy also had 10 rebounds, and the Lakers had a 47-41 advantage in that category.
And in the first half, his best in quite a while, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 8 of his 11 points. He finished with 6 blocked shots, his season high.
Riley, who was not concerned by the disparity of the Lakers’ play, said: “That happens in this game. Unless you get up by 40 points or something, it can happen. We talked about (avoiding a letdown at halftime), but I thought Dallas looked like night and day in the second half.”
The Mavericks hardly seem the same team that nearly spoiled the Lakers’ quest for consecutive titles. They have most of the same cast, except for sixth man Roy Tarpley, who is in a drug rehabilitation clinic. But Mark Aguirre made just 7 of 17 shots for 16 points, Sam Perkins 3 of 11 for 11 points, and Derek Harper 9 of 17 for 25 points.
“We had a third quarter that was representative of how this team could play,” Maverick Coach John MacLeod said. “But in order for us to be a quality team, we’ve got to play more than just one quarter.
“Those (3-point shots) were back-breakers.”
The Lakers started slowly, but it did not matter, because the Mavericks were abysmal the entire first half. And a 28-9 run in the final 7:14 of the half helped the Lakers turn a 6-point lead into their 63-36 halftime advantage.
With the Lakers ahead, 39-27, Scott made a short jump shot and free throw on a Laker fast break, and Perkins made a free throw. Then Abdul-Jabbar went to work.
He sank a skyhook from the baseline to give the Lakers a 16-point lead with 4:21 left in the half. Then he feigned a skyhook and furtively handed off to Johnson, who cut through the lane for an easy basket. After a Maverick turnover, Worthy sank a baseline jump shot.
After a Dallas timeout, Abdul-Jabbar swished a left-handed skyhook amid traffic in the lane to give the Lakers a 50-30 advantage and start them on a 15-6 run.
After Scott’s 3-point basket gave the Lakers a 23-point edge, Abdul-Jabbar blocked Perkins’ shot attempt. That translated into another jump shot by Scott, who had 14 first-half points.
Finally, after Rolando Blackman missed a jump shot, Johnson beat the buzzer with a turnaround jumper to complete the streak, during which the Lakers shot 67%.
For the half, the Lakers shot 54.2% and the Mavericks 35.9%.
After the Lakers were so dominating in the first half, a letdown in the third quarter was not entirely unexpected. In the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, they missed 6 of 7 shots and had 3 turnovers. The Mavericks outscored them, 13-3, and cut the Laker lead to 17 points.
That prompted a timeout call from Riley, but it didn’t prevent the Mavericks from cutting the Lakers’ lead to 80-71 entering the fourth quarter.
A.C. Green’s agent, Larry Fleisher, met with Laker General Manager Jerry West earlier in the week to negotiate a contract extension for the power forward. Green is in the final season of a contract that pays him $269,000 per year. “We’re talking in a favorable way,” Fleisher said Friday from his New York office. “But I would not say we’re close yet. It might be a few more weeks, still.” Fleisher said the sides are working on a multiyear deal for Green at a significant increase from his current salary. Green is believed to be the second-lowest-paid starting power forward in the league. Greg Anderson of the San Antonio Spurs, who is in his second season, earns $200,000. Ken Norman, the Clippers’ second-year forward, makes $31,000 more than Green, who is averaging 11.1 points a game and leads the Lakers in rebounding. Both sides apparently are seeking a multiyear contract so that Green will not be eligible for free agency in 2 seasons.
Ronnie Lester reportedly will take over advance scouting duties to enable assistant coach Randy Pfund to spend more time working with the team in practice. . . . The Lakers are off until Tuesday, when they play host to the New York Knicks.