Lakers Expect the Slam Dance to Get Even Rougher

Times Staff Writer

There is no statistical category for bruises received in the National Basketball Assn., but the Lakers estimated that the pounding they took from the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday was about normal.

Physical play is the SuperSonics’ specialty, and the Lakers figure it will only escalate as the best-of-seven series progresses. They expect nothing different from Seattle, even though the Lakers did not appear intimidated in posting an 11-point victory in the opening game.

“This was probably the easiest game of the series, in terms of being physical,” Laker power forward A. C. Green said. “It’s going to be rougher the next game and every game after that. That style is nothing new for them.”


As evidenced by the 31 fouls called against Seattle and the common sight of Laker players sprawled on the Forum floor, the SuperSonics did play rough Sunday.

But Seattle Coach Bernie Bickerstaff told the Seattle Times on Monday that the Lakers had played just as physically as the SuperSonics, although they were called for only half as many fouls. Bickerstaff also said that comments by the Lakers before and after Game 1 had unduly influenced the officials.

“They let us play in (the) Houston (series),” Bickerstaff said of the game officials. “It just depends on what type of refs you get. If you get strong officials, they won’t listen to all that (talk).”

Laker Coach Pat Riley said after Monday’s workout at the Forum that the Lakers were well-practiced in adapting to different styles and that they had showed no signs of meekness in Game 1.

“It probably will get worse, but it’s OK,” Riley said. “There’s nothing the matter with playing physical basketball.

“There are two ways teams can play physical against us. It can either be part of their nature and their personality. Or it can be something that a team tries to disrupt you and take you out of your game. I think it’s their nature.


“But if anyone talks like we’ll be affected by it, they’ll be making a mistake. We won’t be bothered. We did what we had to do yesterday. We had 18 offensive rebounds and had only nine turnovers and played tough defense.”

Riley even subtly suggested that, after losing Game 1, the SuperSonics might consider adapting to a different style themselves to better compete against the Lakers Wednesday night in Game 2.

“I think it works both ways,” Riley said. “We changed the way we played. Maybe they might go the other way. Maybe they could change their personality. The objective is to win games. Sometimes, strategies have to be altered.”

There is little chance, however, that the SuperSonics will try to finesse the Lakers Wednesday night. Riley admitted that, and his players are expecting another night of body-slamming.

“I don’t think they’d do that,” Laker forward James Worthy said. “To start to play a different way now, in the playoffs, that wouldn’t work. That’s their style. They can’t change.”

Judging by the comments from Seattle forward Olden Polynice, who fouled out after scoring 11 points, the SuperSonics will not back down.


“We can’t deviate,” Polynice said before the SuperSonics returned to Seattle on Sunday night. “We’re a physical team. We play hard. The last couple of weeks, we’ve been hearing that we haven’t been playing as physical as we usually do.”

Bickerstaff said that even his players have overemphasized the physical aspect of their game. He recently admonished forward Xavier McDaniel for saying during the Houston series that the SuperSonics would not allow an opponent a layup without paying for it physically.

“We talk all that crap about fouling people going to the hole and not giving up layups,” Bickerstaff said. “We should not have done that. We’ve set ourselves up. Whatever you’re going to do, don’t say it. The Lakers do the same thing we do, but they don’t talk about it.”

The SuperSonics were not restrained in Game 1.

Five minutes into the game, Magic Johnson was knocked to the floor on a drive to the basket. In other examples, guard Nate McMillan pushed Byron Scott to the floor, Polynice leveled Michael Cooper on a jump shot and McDaniel body-slammed Worthy on what turned out to be a three-point play.

“I wouldn’t say it’s dirty,” Riley said. “That’s just the way they are.” The Lakers could have known that just by looking at the statistics. The SuperSonics led the league in personal fouls this season. But Laker players do not think they are any more physical than the Detroit Pistons were in last season’s championship series.

“We’re not distracted by any of it,” Worthy said. “We let it get to us in ’84 against the (Boston) Celtics. We let them beat us with those tactics. Since then, though, we’ve adapted.”