Whether the Seattle SuperSonics are blatantly thuggish or merely aggressive no longer seems to matter much. At issue now is whether they can stop the Lakers in this series. Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night was an even more graphic example of Laker playoff domination over a team that normally gives them problems. This time, the Lakers were hardly challenged as they scored a 130-108 victory over the SuperSonics before 17,505 fans at the Forum.
In taking a 2-0 series lead, the Lakers rendered the SuperSonics punchless by making 57.5% of their shots. Furthermore, they stifled Seattle's offensive patterns and countered by shifting their fastbreak into overdrive.
Leading the Laker attack, for the second consecutive game, was forward James Worthy, who made 13 of 16 shots and scored a game-high 30 points. The fact that Worthy scored only eight of his points in the second half was merely an indication of the degree of the Laker blowout.
Returning to Seattle today in preparation for Game 3 Friday night ought to ease the SuperSonics' burden, after they lost twice at the Forum by a total of 33 points. After all, the Lakers lost two of three games in Seattle this season.
But even that might not make a difference, if the first two games are an accurate barometer. To say the Lakers currently are on top of their game is as obvious as noting that the Forum parking lot cleared out early Wednesday.
"We pushed it up a level in the last week of the season," Magic Johnson said. "But now, in the playoffs, we've kicked it up all the way. When it's time to win, we know how to win."
That point was pounded into the SuperSonics Wednesday night as often as the teams pounded each other under the basket.
"They've definitely gone to a different level," said Ellis, who had averaged 28 points against the Lakers during the regular season. "Even from Game 1 to Game 2, you could tell. We had a chance the other day. Tonight, they were all over us."
This one was over perhaps as early as the first quarter, when the Lakers sprinted to a seven-point lead after 3 1/2 minutes. They were ahead, 32-26, after one quarter and held a 10-point lead at halftime, 63-53.
Seattle pulled to within nine points with 4:54 to play in the third quarter before the Lakers took control.
An 18-4 run, which so impressed the crowd that an ovation during a timeout preempted a Laker Girls' routine, gave the Lakers a 95-72 lead and ended even the slimmest of Seattle hopes.
The Lakers led by as many as 25 points before the benches cleared--not in a fight. The SuperSonics had no fight in them by that point, although reserve forward Olden Polynice drew a technical foul for elbowing and then squaring off against Orlando Woolridge.
By most accounts, the Lakers not only beat the SuperSonics, they dominated them. That seemed the Lakers' intention before the series moves to Seattle for Games 3 and 4.
"They had confidence going into the first game," said Johnson, who had 12 points and 12 assists. "But tonight, we didn't let them in the game. We never let them get the confidence they needed to make them feel it was their game."
The Lakers' third-quarter dominance may have erased the last vestige of SuperSonic confidence, although they vowed that such Laker surges would not be repeated in the Northwest. After Xavier McDaniel, who made only seven of 17 shots and scored 17 points, sank two free throws to pull the SuperSonics within nine points, the Lakers took over.
The run began when Byron Scott, who had 16 points while playing with an infected toe, scored inside with 4:30 remaining. A.C. Green (16 points, eight rebounds) made two free throws 30 seconds later. After Ellis missed a jump shot, Worthy followed Scott's miss for his 23rd and 24th points.
That gave the Lakers a 15-point lead, but the SuperSonic blunders had just begun. A confused Ellis passed the ball right to Scott, who initiated a fast break that resulted in a spectacular dunk by Worthy after pinball-like passing from Scott to Johnson to Worthy.
Seattle Coach Bernie Bickerstaff called a timeout. It was only the start of the run, though. The Lakers continued on an 8-2 tear, highlights being Michael Cooper's three-point basket as the shot clock expired, Worthy's jump shot after Michael Cage threw the ball away and Green's three-point play.
"The crowd was crazy, it was great," Johnson said. "That took us to another level."
Had the Lakers ascended even higher Wednesday night, they would have pierced the ozone layer. All they did was:
--Limit Ellis and McDaniel to a combined shooting night of 12 for 29. The SuperSonics' main offensive threats totaled 31 points. After two games, the two have 66 points, only eight more than Worthy alone so far in the series.
"We're not executing on offense as much as we'd like, and I'm not getting as many chances to score," Ellis said. "They're playing the point guard tough, so I'm not getting the passes."
--Out-rebound the SuperSonics for the second straight game, this time, 44-34.
--Have eight players in double figures, including prolific performances off the bench by Woolridge (13 points), Mychal Thompson (12) and Cooper (10).
Bickerstaff may have lost the game. But at least he did not lose his sense of humor.
Asked to explain the lopsided loss, Bickerstaff planted tongue in cheek and said:
"The alarm went off (in the hotel), and we didn't get any sleep."
That was a reference to Bickerstaff's allegations of foul play on the night before the first game. This time, there were no excuses.
"Hey, basically, the Lakers kicked our tails," Bickerstaff said. "They played like world champions. We talked. They talked. They played.
"I didn't see much positive. We were more in awe than aggressive. But I don't want to negate what they did. The Lakers played supreme."
Riley, who usually finds some imperfection in any Laker performance, concurred.
"My analysis is that we played extremely well," Riley said, smiling. "Seattle is a team in which you have to sustain a state of mind on every possession. They can put together (runs) because they always have that effort. One thing we've been consistent at is sustaining a real consistent state of mind.
"They were out there being aggressive and hand-checking and taking us to the body just like the other night. As long as we execute like we did tonight, we'll be all right."
The question, though, is whether the SuperSonics will recover at home this weekend. The SuperSonics, naturally, say they will.
Johnson, however, said it is something he will deal with when the Lakers' flight lands in the Northwest this afternoon.
"What kind of shape are they in?" Johnson asked, repeating a question. "Well, we're up 2-0 and we're playing real well. That's all I know."
After running in a pregame workout Wednesday night, Laker guard Byron Scott said he was able to play despite an infected big toe. Scott, who had part of an ingrown toenail removed by Laker doctors Tuesday, said: "It feels 1,000% better. It hurts a little bit now, but it feels good enough to play. My wife (Anita) says I need a pedicure." Robert Kerlan, the Laker physician, said Scott is taking antibiotics to combat the infection. "The most important thing we did was to remove part of the nail," Kerlan said. "Now, you just wait until the infection goes away." Scott said he had no fear that SuperSonic players would try to step on his toe. "But if they do, no problem," he said. . . . Bernie Bickerstaff, the SuperSonic coach, happily reported that his team had an uneventful night Tuesday after arriving back in Los Angeles. On the night before Game 1, the SuperSonics were awakened at 3 a.m. by a fire alarm.