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Riley Said to Have Berated Players Before Game 4 Loss

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sunday morning, in a hotel room in Phoenix, Laker Coach Pat Riley reportedly berated his players before their eventual 13-point loss to the Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

“It was ugly, the loudest I’ve heard him,” one Laker said Monday. “It didn’t work.”

Monday, with the Lakers back home and a loss away from elimination going into Game 5 tonight at the Forum, Riley tried a different tactic.

He gave the players a day to themselves. No practice. No videotape dissections. No screaming.

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“Right now, I can’t give any type of phony pep talk to get them up for tomorrow night,” Riley said. “We got a little bit of a mess on our hands. That’s reality. We’ve just got to roll up our sleeves and go out there and play. You’ve got to go out and execute and do things that are successful.”

Riley said he issued the day off--the Suns also canceled practice, but watched film together--so the Lakers could replenish themselves mentally and physically.

Forward A.C. Green suffered a deep bruise on his right thigh in Game 4, and forward Orlando Woolridge had a recurrence of rotator-cuff tendinitis in his right shoulder. Both received treatment Monday, trainer Gary Vitti said. Guard Byron Scott also received treatment for his left hamstring, but Vitti said it was “nothing new. Byron gets the usual treatment every day.”

After consecutive double-figure losses at Phoenix, Laker egos might be bruised, too. Riley said he took that into consideration in giving the players the day off.

“We will have a very good session (this morning) and be ready to play,” he said. “This team values rested minds and rested bodies. They may be a little drained and mentally tired from (Sunday), but believe me they will be back strong. We have an opportunity to do something really significant. I have a feeling that we will.

“To be honest with you, I sort of embrace it. I’d rather be up 3-1 or tied 2-2. But it sort of finds out what you’re made of and what you’re about. With this team, during this time, there is more of a sense of calm that comes because the reality is right there for you. I don’t think there’s any doubt our players understand they’ll have to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.”

Riley said improved defense against the Suns, especially point guard Kevin Johnson, will be vital if the Lakers are to improve their offense, which primarily relied on Magic Johnson’s 43 points in Game 4.

He said he will not change the Laker offense, but might sometimes use a three-guard attack, as he did for most of the second half in Game 4 when Michael Cooper replaced Mychal Thompson.

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NBA PLAYOFF COMEBACKS

Teams winning best-of-seven series after being down, 3-1.

Year Team Opponent Round of Playoffs 1968 Boston Philadelphia Eastern Division Final 1970 Lakers Phoenix Western Division Final 1979 Washington San Antonio Eastern Conf. Final 1981 Boston Philadelphia Eastern Conf. Final


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