The Lakers reached into their pocketful of miracles but fumbled.
To pull off this particular upset, they needed to be a little luckier.
And they needed to be a little smarter.
Elden Campbell, told to make an intentional foul on the last Cleveland possession, couldn't get to Mark Price until Price was able to simulate a shot. Campbell wrapped him up, the referee called it a shooting foul and Price, at 95.9% the highest-percentage free-throw shooter in NBA history, dropped in the two fouls shots that gave the Cavaliers a 109-107 overtime victory Friday night.
The Cavaliers forced the overtime in the first place only by scoring on a rebound at the end of regulation.
The hero of this particular play was not Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance or Hot Rod Williams but . . . Steve Kerr?
"What do you mean?" the 6-foot-2 Kerr said, laughing. "I've always been a great offensive rebounder.
"That's me, Steve Rodman."
OK, so he picked the ball up off the floor. Not counting the man who missed the shot, Price, Kerr was the smallest man on the floor, but he was hanging around the lane, hoping for lightning to strike. The ball bounced long off the front rim. The Lakers' Chucky Brown reached back and got part of it, but Sam Perkins got another part. The ball fell in the lane, giving Kerr suddenly the lack-of-height advantage.
"I went to shoot," Kerr said. "I figured I'd get fouled, but nobody touched me."
Said Brown: "Somebody must have hit it because I had that ball. It went on the floor, I saw him (Kerr) pick it up, he went up . . . I said, 'damn.' "
It had already been a long night. The Lakers were behind by 13 points late in the third quarter but rallied all through the fourth.
With 2:12 left in regulation, Sedale Threatt hit a 14-footer over Price on the baseline to tie it, 96-96.
With 14 seconds left, Byron Scott, hit a 19-footer on a fast break, having started it by tipping the ball away from Price, for a 100-98 lead.
With :05 left, Kerr picked up the rebound of Price's miss and scored, tying it again.
Now for the overtime:
With 22 seconds left, Price, with 11 misses in 14 tries to that point, nailed a three-pointer for a 107-104 lead.
At the other end, the Lakers went for a three of their own. However, Brad Daugherty sniffed out A.C. Green's intentions and blanketed him.
Green took the shot anyway, over Daugherty's arms, fading away a step behind the line--and hit it cleanly, tying it, 107-107.
So the Cavaliers got one last possession.
Price, guarded by Threatt, came off a pick at the three-point line.
Campbell tried to wrap him up, too late.
"It's real unfortunate to lose a game that way, when you play so hard and you play so well," Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "It was just a mental mistake.
"We were supposed to foul on his first positive move toward the basket. Elden should have fouled him as soon as he came off the pick.
"He (Price) saw what was going to happen. Being the smart player he is, he threw the ball up there. It was a smart play by him, an unfortunate play by us."
Price said he knew the situation, but he had one other valuable piece of data.
"I was fortunate enough to come off the pick on Dunleavy's side of the court," Price said. "He was yelling, 'Go foul him! Go foul him!' That helped.
"If it had been a guard on me, I don't know if I could have done it. But it was a big guy and I made a little move on him."
Price ducked, and by the time Campbell got to him, Price was in his shooting motion.
"We're upset about losing," Scott said later, "but like I told them after the game, we can't let this carry over to (tonight's) game. Even though it's an 'L' in the won-loss column, we showed we can play with any team in the league."
Tonight they have to play with the Bullets. In this league, you learn your lessons on the run.
The victory, the 799th for Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens, gave the Cavaliers a season sweep over the Lakers for the first time. . . . Mark Price made all 10 free throws. He has made 213 of 222 (95.9%). The NBA record is Calvin Murphy's 95.8%. . . . Byron Scott scored 28 points to lead the Lakers and Sam Perkins had 20.
* THE HEAT IS ON
Miami, after defeating the Denver Nuggets, is in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. C10