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Scott Has What It Takes at the Finish

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

A trip down memory lane finds Byron Scott at the center of controversy, his shot to beat the 24-second clock clinching a Laker victory in Game 1 at the Forum. But that bit of nostalgia might become a passing remembrance of a first-round series wrapped up two outings later.

The real postseason scrapbook of Byron Scott, No. 4 in your program and No. 1 on your injury report, is something far more ingrained, maybe because it has been two years in the making. That well-chronicled right hamstring caused more trouble, and frustration, than the Detroit Pistons or Portland Trail Blazers could ever hope to.

Enter the 1991 playoffs, after playing in all 82 games of the regular season for the first time since 1986-87, and he’s pain free, knock on Forum hardwood. The Houston Rockets get the first look, and now they’re hurting.

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The crucial Game 1 jumper was the most memorable of Scott’s 20 points. He had seventeen more points in the follow-up visit. He scored only eight more Tuesday, but back-to-back back-breakers in the final minute helped the Lakers clinch a 94-90 victory at the Summit and the three-game sweep. In total, an average of 15 points and 36.7 minutes and 51.3% accuracy from the field, all better than his regular-season numbers.

“I feel the quickness and that I definitely have the jumping ability to get my shot off,” Scott said. “I basically depend on my legs for my game. This has been gratifying because I set one of my goals in training camp to play in every game. I accomplished that. My next goal is to play all the way to us winning the championship.”

One step at a time, but at least they’re pain-free steps. It’s that way in the playoffs for the first time since the Detroit series in the 1989 finals, which he missed because of the leg injury. Teammates notice.

“Definitely,” Magic Johnson said. “With Byron healthy, he’s able to guard the great point guards other people have and hit his shots. You saw tonight he hit the two big ones down the stretch. He’s ready. He’s calm. He’s confident.”

He’s also distracted. His wife, Anita, was hospitalized Friday, the day after the Game 1 victory, because of what Scott said were some recent stitches that have broken open. She remains there, resting comfortably.

In the game’s closing moments, however, Scott merely focused his radar on the rim. First, with the Lakers trailing, 88-86, he got free along the left baseline and made good on a 17-footer.

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Then, with the score 88-88, he was in the right flat with the ball. Hakeem Olajuwon hesitated for an instant, then charged out on the defensive switch. The 19-footer that followed with 16.9 seconds remaining, over Olajuwon’s outstretched arms, provided what would have been the winning margin had the Lakers not conceded a meaningless layup by Dave Jamerson just before the buzzer.

Scott was two for eight before the final minute, a hero afterward.

“It’s the best situation in the world to have the ball in a tie game and time running out,” he said. “I thrive on that. I just have to concentrate a lot better in that situation. I don’t care if I’m one of 10. Nine times out of 10, I’ll hit that shot. Tonight was no different.”

Scott wasn’t finished yet. He denied the ball to Kenny Smith, as the Rocket guard started close to midcourt, headed backdoor, and then back out to open court. That helped force a five-second call against Houston. The Lakers took that opportunity to put the game away.

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