The team that couldn’t play a minute without Magic Johnson got to try it for a whole night when the franchise came down with a badly jammed finger.
Surprise! Magic’s old backup, Larry Drew, and Drew’s new backup, rookie Tony Smith, performed admirably and the Lakers crushed the Golden State Warriors, 135-108, Sunday night before 17,197 at the Forum.
In his third Laker start, Drew got his Laker-high 14 assists.
Smith, who had played 25 minutes in the league and never had been in an NBA first half, scored 10 points and had six assists.
“I think we might trade Magic and see if there’s anything we can get for him,” joked Mike Dunleavy, a happier man after the game than he had been before it.
“I might have to take a vacation,” Johnson said.
The Laker margin of victory was their largest of the season. The 66 points they scored in the first half was surpassed only by their 70 against the Denver Nuggets. Their 38 points in the third period was another season high.
The Lakers had been having problems whenever Johnson left the floor this season. This prompted GM Jerry West to start shopping for backup point guards.
“I’d been hearing that,” Drew said. “There’s really not a whole lot I can comment on it. I think my role has changed. I’m not getting as many minutes as last year.
“It makes it a lot easier when you’re playing with guys like Byron (Scott, seven for eight, three for three on three-pointers, 18 points) and James (Worthy, game-high 29 points). You just throw them the ball.”
Dunleavy asked Johnson about his finger before the game.
“I don’t know,” Johnson said. “I’ll have to wait to see the doctor.”
Minutes later, Dr. Stephen Lombardo scratched Johnson for the night.
The Lakers had gotten run over by the Warriors Friday night in Oakland. However, in the four games before that, the Warriors had allowed an average of 129 points.
Which Warrior team would show up Sunday?
The Lakers made sure it was the ones with the sieve defense. They had a 10-point lead at the end of the first period, saw Golden state close to 68-63 early in the third period and finished blowing them away. The Lakers out-rebounded the little Warriors, 30-12 in the first half and 59-33 in the game.
Smith, the little-known, seldom-used No. 2 Laker draft pick from Marquette who was taken on the advice of Dunleavy, kept it going. As soon as he entered the game, Dunleavy’s mentor, Golden State Coach Don Nelson, slapped a press on and sure enough, Smith, an off-guard who can play the point in emergencies, turned the ball over the first time he brought it up.
After that, Smith blossomed.
“Our rookie came through big-time,” Dunleavy said. “It’s a real case of someone who works hard being ready when he gets the call.
“This will certainly buy some time for several people.”
In other words, Drew and Smith might get more minutes.
Johnson won’t mind.
Magic Johnson will see a hand specialist today, then rejoin the team Tuesday in Seattle. Johnson on the injury: “I had already hurt it about a month ago and had been playing with it since then. And then Friday I went to the basket and somebody, I don’t know who, went for the ball and hit my finger.”
Vlade Divac had a big game: 20 points, 12 rebounds. . . . With Sam Perkins’ 22, the Laker starting front court scored 71 points. The Laker starters shot 35 for 54, 65%. . . . Byron Scott has made five of six three-pointers in two games. . . . Warrior guard Sarunas Marciulionis suffered a left-knee sprain in a collision with Scott at the end of the first half and played no more. He will be re-examined today. It wasn’t Marciulionis’ night; Coach Don Nelson pulled him twice in the first half after very brief stints.
The Warriors’ Mitch Richmond, Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin scored 26, 26 and 25, respectively. No other Warrior had more than six points.