Driving north on Interstate 95, a fan would have had no trouble finding an exhibition baseball game that would have been more suspenseful and competitive than what passed for National Basketball Assn. action here Wednesday night.
In the third and, mercifully, last monumental mismatch between these teams, the Lakers once again clobbered the expansion Miami Heat, 127-87, before 15,008 fans who have seen this before.
Aesthetics hardly mattered to the Lakers, though. They found their third blowout over the Heat great sport, if not challenging, and basically said they had as much fun winning the series by an average of 36.3 points as league bylaws would allow.
After the first 2 1/2 minutes, when the Lakers assumed a 10-2 lead that would eventually swell to as many as 43 points, the only thing in doubt was how soon-retiring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would address the spectators who came to say their first hello and last goodby on the same night. After all, Abdul-Jabar had never played here before.
“When I was a rookie, we went through a similar start, being an expansion franchise and not doing well,” Abdul-Jabbar told the crowd at halftime.
Scattered boos came down, Abdul-Jabbar laughing at the reaction.
Then he quickly recovered by adding: “But you’ve got good management, and I know it won’t take long to turn it around.”
The boos turned to cheers. It was perhaps the last such chorus of the night.
So dominant were the Lakers, it was difficult to detect a difference between their starters and their reserves. In fact, Riley made certain that his regulars made little more than cameo appearances, especially in the second half.
Byron Scott, for example, hit seven of 10 shots in the first quarter, then sat out the entire second quarter. In abbreviated playing time, Magic Johnson had 13 points and 10 assists, and A.C. Green had 15 points and six rebounds. Scott finished with 16 points, taking only one more shot.
This Laker victory, their second in as many nights on the road, belonged to the reserves. Riley went to his bench early and often and stayed with the reserves so much that fatigue set in.
Even when he tried to give the starters some minutes, the Heat caved in so quickly it would have been embarrassing to let it continue. After taking a 76-43 halftime lead, the Lakers outscored Miami, 12-4, in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter for a 41-point lead.
The reserves, en masse, entered. Miami (8-50) never got closer than 36 points the rest of the way.
Mark McNamara, the Lakers’ third-string center, turned out to be the designated star-of-the-game, imitating a poor man’s Moses Malone with his rebounding prowess and trying to imitate Magic Johnson’s no-look passing.
Usually affixed to the bench, McNamara responded with 13 rebounds, a season high, and eight points. Other contributors off the bench were Tony Campbell, who tied his season-high total with 19 points, and Orlando Woolridge and Michael Cooper with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Miami’s leading scorer, rookie center John Shasky, also came off the bench. He had 18 points, and Scott Hastings added 13 points and a team-high five rebounds.
The Laker highlight of an otherwise forgettable game came with 2:30 to play, after most of the crowd had left.
McNamara, posting low, received a pass in the lane with his back to the basket. Jeff Lamp, on the baseline perimeter, cut to the basket. McNamara flipped a pass over his head to Lamp for a reverse layup.
“Believe it or not, we practice it all the time,” Lamp said. “There’s no defense in practice, so it always works.”
Some might argue that there was no defense when it worked Wednesday night, either. But McNamara refused to let the Heat’s ineptitude spoil his good performance.
“I told Jeff to go baseline for a give-and-go, like a Magic play,” McNamara said. “But when Magic does it, it’s a no-look pass. I had to look at Jeff or I wouldn’t have gotten it there. I told Jeff that next time he’ll have to dunk it.”
Considering the way the Lakers have dominated the Heat, anything seems possible. They have beaten Miami by a total of 109 points in the three meetings, the most lopsided being a 47-point rout in November.
Riley was most pleased by his reserves, who actually outscored the Laker starters, 67-60.
“I was a little concerned about their conditioning, playing that much,” said Riley, whose team improved its record to 41-18. “Mark looked a little pink and tired out there after a few minutes, but then he got his second wind. He played very well, and it shows what he can do if we need him.”
Billy Cunningham, part owner of the Heat, was the host of Wednesday’s farewell ceremony for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Heat presented the Laker center with a 7-day cruise from Los Angeles down the Mexico coast, as well as a marble sculpture by a Haitian artist. . . . The Lakers improved their record to 7-8 in farewell games. . . . The 76 points the Lakers scored against the Heat in Wednesday’s first half were the most an opponent has totaled against Miami in a half.