They ran so fast the greyhounds in the Maverick backcourt couldn't catch them--though they came close. The Lakers ran a clinic in the first half but a picnic in the second Thursday night and hung on to win, 106-92.
"Give them credit for fighting back," Magic Johnson said after posting his second triple-double in a row--21 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds. "They could have died or quit, but they didn't."
Thus the Lakers finally beat the Mavericks, 14-30 against everyone else since losing Roy Tarpley, but 2-0 against them before Thursday.
Samson had Delilah, Custer had Sitting Bull and the Lakers had this ragtag, but game, bunch.
On Nov. 16, Dallas' first game here after Tarpley's injury, the Mavericks showed a video of Tarpley from the hospital on the scoreboard, with Roy advising "Beat L.A.!" The Lakers took a 14-point lead in the first quarter and the Mavericks outscored them by 23 after that.
This was considered an aberration and did not set the stage for the next meeting, Dec. 12 in the Forum. The Lakers fell into the Mavericks' waltz-time pace, trailed by 10 in the third quarter, took an 89-87 lead with three seconds left . . . before Rodney McCray tied it at the buzzer with a 19-footer. Numbed, the Lakers watched the Mavericks score 23 points in the extra session--one short of the NBA record--and rout them in overtime, 112-97.
This did set the stage for Thursday, when the Lakers came ready.
Their first half was perfection. With A.C. Green replacing Mychal Thompson in the lineup, they hit their first six shots from the field and two free throws. They forced eight Dallas turnovers in the first quarter. They scored 33 points in the quarter--or one more point than they had scored in their two previous first quarters, combined. They held the Mavericks to 29 points in the first half, tying a Dallas franchise low.
Amazingly, the Mavericks rallied.
"I was trying to make the game last as many minutes as I could," Dallas Coach Richie Adubato said. "I was going to press all night. The only chance we had was a two-hour game in the hope we could start sticking it, which we did at the end."
The Lakers led by 24 with 4:24 left in the third quarter but the Mavericks got hot. They cut it to 12 at the end of the quarter, the last basket when Brad Davis tipped in Derek Harper's wild shot at the buzzer.
"That was a big basket," Laker Coach Mike Dunleavy said, "especially since I thought it shouldn't have counted.
"It forced us to keep James (Worthy) and Magic in the game, hoping to break it open and then put them on the bench for good."
Well, he put them on the bench, but not for good.
The Lakers moved into an 88-71 lead with 4:51 left and Dunleavy told Johnson to take the rest of the night off. He hustled him back into the game 2:25 later with the advantage pared to 92-83 on two consecutive three-point shots by Harper.
The Lakers then settled down and the Mavericks came no closer.
"Tony (Smith) came in and just didn't recognize some situations, but it's a learning experience," Johnson said. "Especially against Derek. Derek taught him a lot about crossing over on his dribble--that you can't do it against a quality point guard."
Johnson played 41 minutes after going 44 at Houston on Tuesday. Once again, he can rest on the plane, but not for long. It's a short night and a short flight to Atlanta.
The Lakers placed Sam Perkins (broken toe) on the injured list, meaning he can't return until March 1. . . . The Lakers have won nine of 10 road games and are 17-8 overall, best in the NBA. . . . The Hawks have won 17 in a row in the Omni. . . . Vlade Divac, Byron Scott and A.C. Green all scored 20 points to go with Magic Johnson's 21.
Derek Harper on the Laker defense: "They force you to beat them from the outside. They cut you off. It's very rare you see somebody drive all the way to the hole. We cut the lead to 10 or 12, but I didn't think that was a good indication of how the game went. They did the job tonight." . . . Richie Adubato: "Right now, I think the Lakers are the best team in the NBA. I still think Portland's the best, but the Lakers are on a roll." . . . Mike Dunleavy on Divac's late three-point basket when Lakers were supposed to be running down the clock: "I didn't need it at that time. Matter of fact, I didn't need him dribbling the ball upcourt and going behind his back. But he played an excellent game." . . . Terry Teagle was ill but played 18 minutes.