Thirty-six hours in a hotel. No cable TV, no trips to the mall, no shuttle to the nearest best restaurant.
The Lakers had to take refuge all weekend from the storm. Sunday afternoon they emerged--and wished they hadn't.
The Lakers were greeted by an Atlanta Hawks team that shrugged off the chill, the near-empty building inside and gained control early in the fourth quarter for a 117-107 victory in The Omni.
Before a crowd of 4,000 that included three officials, a mascot and four members of the 12-member Hawks dance unit, the Lakers led only during the game's early moments.
James Worthy scored 25 points, A.C. Green had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Sedale Threatt had 17 points and six assists. They stayed close, Worthy's straight-on three-point bank shot trimming the deficit to 90-87 at the end of the third quarter.
The final 12 minutes belonged to the Hawks.
More accurately, they belonged to Dominique Wilkins. While Laker Coach Randy Pfund lamented the absence of "someone who can take over in a game like this," the Hawks turned things over Wilkins.
Much as he has all season, Wilkins, 33, began the final period with a flurry, stealing a pass from Worthy that led to a jump shot by Jon Koncak; bolting ahead for a layup on a fast break; hitting a three-pointer from the right side and spotting up for a jump shot from the top of the circle.
By the time the Lakers called time out, the Hawks led, 99-84, never to be challenged again.
"We just didn't play very well, especially after we got back in it in the second half," said Worthy. "And Dominique has been playing great. But we knew that coming in."
Though coming off career-threatening surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon, Wilkins continued a seasonlong assault on the Hawks' record book with 11 rebounds, four assists and 35 points, including a three-pointer that gave him the franchise record for three-pointers in a season (89). He has become the franchise leader in scoring, steals and big plays.
Wilkins even pulled a scam on veteran referee Jack Nies, who assessed Threatt an offensive foul as his three-pointer settled in with six minutes to play. Wilkins fell backward on the play, feigning contact.
"It's pretty hard to foul a guy when you're shooting a three-point shot," said Pfund, "Unless Sedale's been taking karate or something, (there is no way) that he can kick his leg up that high."
Yet none of that discouraged Pfund from sending Doug Christie into the game with 6:39 to play in the third quarter, matching him against Wilkins. After eyeing Christie, Wilkins glanced toward the Hawk bench, smiled, then went right at the rookie.
He curled into the lane and floated in a one-hander, answered Vlade Divac' rebound basket with another jump shot from the left side, then inadvertently gave the youngster a break.
As Christie held the ball on the left wing, poised for a move, Wilkins took two steps and slipped. Christie, all alone, hit nothing but net.
"I adjusted the best I could," said the newest Laker, smiling. "Dominique went for what, 37? I just tried to force him to the middle as best I could."
Offered Pfund, "I wanted to get Doug some time, and unfortunately, he's been playing that position (small forward). But if he's going to help us later in the season, we've got to get him in there."
Not that Christie didn't have his moments--two of them. With the game out of reach in the closing minutes, he drove from the right baseline and scored on a resounding dunk. Moments later, he went up, well above the rim, and slammed in a rebound that even elicited cheers from the crowd.
"Garbage time, though," said Christie, "so it doesn't count."
* KINGS: Sunday's game in Buffalo was postponed until today because the arena was not ready. C4