Lakers Shake Their Lethargy, Finish Sweep : Win Over Portland Extends First-Round Streak to 18-0

Times Staff Writer

For a precious 13 minutes Wednesday night, the Portland Trail Blazers experienced the unusual sensation of actually leading the Lakers in this most lopsided of series.

The feeling lasted for most of the second and part of the third quarter, a time when the Trail Blazers impersonated a team that could be competitive with the twice-defending National Basketball Assn. champions.

Soon enough, though, the Lakers reclaimed the dominance they had showed at the Forum and completed a routine first-round sweep with a 116-108 victory over Portland in Game 3 before 12,880 at the Memorial Coliseum.


So, to almost no one’s surprise, the Lakers swept their first-round playoff series for the sixth straight season. They are 18-0 since the league changed to a five-game first-round format, a humane form of disposal for the Lakers’ unfortunate opponents.

Game 3 Wednesday night differed only slightly from the two previous Laker victories. For one thing, the Trail Blazers did hold a lead, never more than six points, before the Lakers returned to form and posted their third straight win in Portland this season.

But in most areas, this was vintage Lakers. And, in fact, it was a throwback to an earlier time for 42-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 22 points and had 6 rebounds in 29 minutes.

Abdul-Jabbar’s season-high point total, augmented by 25 points from Byron Scott and 24 from James Worthy, repelled a Portland attack that briefly had the Lakers concerned they might have to extend their stay in the Northwest.

“It was a must-win, in a way, for us,” Worthy said. “You never want to prolong (a series), even though you won your home games. But we weren’t (worried), even though they had the lead.”

Although the Trail Blazers took command for a while in the second quarter, when Laker coach Pat Riley went deep into his bench, they never appeared to control play.


Asked afterward if there was any way the Trail Blazers could have beaten the Lakers, even once, Coach Rick Adelman replied honestly.

“I guess not,” he said. “They kind of took over the game. They beat us three straight , and that’s why they are defending champions.”

Today, the Lakers will return to Los Angeles and await the winner of the Seattle-Houston first-round series. The SuperSonics hold a two-games-to-one lead over the Rockets, who are at home for Game 4 Friday night.

The Lakers, experienced at this waiting game, gave no preference as to which team they would rather meet. But Riley said he would not like a long rest. If the Houston-Seattle series ends Friday night, the second round will begin Sunday night at the Forum. But if that series goes five games, the Lakers would not play again until Tuesday night.

“Ideally for us,” Riley said, “would be to start the next series on Sunday. Too many days off wouldn’t be helpful the way we’re playing now. We’re in a good groove, and I hope it continues.”

Trailing by five points at halftime, the Lakers outscored the Trail Blazers, 37-22, in the third quarter to put the series away. Still fearing the Trail Blazers, despite the previous performances, the Lakers said they did not want to let down in the fourth quarter, either.


Which they didn’t, thanks in part to Abdul-Jabbar’s inspired play.

Abdul-Jababr scored 12 of his 22 points in the second half, dominating Kevin Duckworth and Caldwell Jones. And Sam Bowie, who started at power forward, fared no better against Abdul-Jabbar, sitting out most of the second half with a flareup of his chronic right ankle injury.

Abdul-Jabbar clearly outplayed Duckworth in the series. While Duckworth, an All-Star, averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds, Abdul-Jabbar responded by averaging 15.3 points and six rebounds.

“It’ll help the team if they can rely on me,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I feel I’m ready to play now. Everytime they were guarding me one-on-one, I tried to take the best shot I could.” Even at 42, if Abdul-Jababr is given room to maneuver inside against single coverage, his sky hook and short jump shots are difficult to stop.

Which is why Magic Johnson, who had 17 points and seven assists, kept looking inside.

“I didn’t wave him off tonight,” Johnson said. “He was really into his game, so I wasn’t going to go away from him when he’s like that. It was the same with James in the first half. When a guy’s hot, you go to him.”

Worthy scored 10 of the Lakers’ first 12 points, as they once again took control at the start of the game. The Lakers maintained an eight-point lead for most of the quarter, taking a 27-22 edge into the second quarter.

At that point, Riley got daring and played primarily his reserves. That resulted in a 13-3 run that gave the Trail Blazers a six-point lead. By the time Riley brought back his starters, Portland had found its dormant outside shooting touch and held a 54-49 halftime lead.


Guard Terry Porter scored 24 of his 29 points in the first half. That tied a Trail Blazer playoff record for most points in a half, set by Lionel Hollins in 1977 against the Lakers. The Trail Blazers swept the Lakers in that 1977 series.

At halftime, it appeared that they could avoid being swept in this series if they continued shooting so well.

Said Riley: ‘I’m probably to blame for the second-quarter problem. I went a little deeper (on the bench) than I normally do. They got themselves into a hole, but we turned that around pretty quickly in the second half.

“Tonight was about finishing things. We needed to finish this right here and now.”

Riley’s players gladly accommodated him.

“You want to end it as soon as you can,” Worthy said. “Because you never know what might happen if it goes another game. We could get a guy hurt or something. They could get hot. You never know.”

The Lakers are now in a waiting period between rounds, which has become almost a yearly ritual during this decade.

“We’ve been in this situation before,” Johnson said. “Whether that series goes five games or four, we’ll be waiting for ‘em.”


Laker Notes

Some Lakers weren’t surprised that the Utah Jazz, perceived by many as their top competition in the Western Conference playoffs, were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the first round. Coach Pat Riley said Utah’s ouster will benefit the Lakers, should his team advance in the playoffs. “They gave us more problems defensively than any team in the league,” Riley said. “I think all year Utah had been hearing from people that the Lakers were the team they were (to challenge), that in their minds they may have overlooked Golden State. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of one-year phenoms.” But forward James Worthy said, “Anything can happen in the playoffs. Golden State has just as many matchup problems for us as Utah did.” But with Utah eliminated, do the Lakers have an easier path to the NBA finals? “I wouldn’t say that at all,” Worthy said. “There still are a lot of good teams out there.” . . . Gary Vitti, the Lakers’ trainer, said that reserve center Mark McNamara (sprained right ankle) is on schedule to return to action sometime during the second round. . . . Three Laker players have ties to Portland: Mychal Thompson played for the Trail Blazers from 1978-79 to 1986-87 and has a home in a Portland suburb. A.C. Green went to Benson Tech High School in Portland and played at Oregon State, and Jeff Lamp played his first three NBA seasons for the Trail Blazers and also lived and worked in Portland during a one-year sabbatical from basketball in 1984.



Game 1 Lakers 128, Trail Blazers 108 Game 2 Lakers 113, Trail Blazers 105 Game 3 Lakers 116, Trail Blazers108