Hot Lakers Turn Tables on Warriors : Pro basketball: Van Exel has 20 points and 14 assists in 113-101 victory over slumping Golden State.


Nick Van Exel said he heard that a Golden State Warrior--he wouldn’t say which one--called the Lakers’ big victory over Houston last Friday a fluke, so what happened Tuesday night was more than a win that put the Lakers about a month ahead of their 1993-94 pace.

This was about credibility. About answering some of the doubters.

Van Exel never spoke up to that player, but he did have a loud statement for all the opponents: 20 points and a career-high 14 assists that helped the Lakers defeat the Warriors, 113-101, before 10,579 at the Forum for their seventh victory in eight outings.

“I’m sure if we would have lost, teams would have said, ‘Same old Lakers, they fell back again,’ ” Van Exel said. “We’re here to let people know we’re going to stay at this pace.”


Maybe the Warriors had reason to doubt, having defeated the Lakers by 22 points in Oakland about three weeks earlier, one game after the Lakers used a fourth-quarter comeback to avoid a blowout against Denver and one game before they used a fourth-quarter rally to avoid a defeat against the Clippers. Golden State hadn’t seen the developments of the most recent eight outings.

Now the Warriors have. The visitors were forced to play catch-up most of the night and trailed by 15 points early in the fourth quarter before another rally got them within 102-99 after Tim Hardaway’s three-point shot with 3:11 left.

But that’s where the final comeback ended, stopped when Vlade Divac, who had 10 of his 14 rebounds on the offensive end, had three unanswered points and Van Exel followed that with a free throw and then a three-point shot with 1:31 to go.

That shot put the Warriors out of reach for good, finally. It also gave Van Exel four three-pointers, in 10 attempts, as the Lakers set a team record with 11 three-point baskets. Eddie Jones also had four and Cedric Ceballos had two while contributing 28 points and 12 rebounds.

It wasn’t only about Van Exel’s shooting, of course. Playing sick because of a bad sinus condition, the second-year point guard snubbed his nose at the Warriors with the 14 assists, three games after getting 13 assists in back-to-back outings. His Golden State counterpart, Tim Hardaway, had a team-high 23 points and 13 assists.

“I don’t know,” Van Exel said. “It seems like I’ve been more aggressive and have been going to the hole more and looking for the open man. My teammates are wide open, so I just kick it to them.”


Those kind of numbers are expected from Hardaway. Van Exel? That’s another matter as he tries to show people he is more than a shooter who plays point guard. His recent play should help--an average of 8.8 assists over the last 12 games and 10 over the last five. Credibility, remember?

The Warriors limped in having lost two in a row, six of their last seven and searching for a permanent starting lineup, with Coach Don Nelson using nine combinations in the first 15 games and no final decisions expected until Chris Mullin returns from the injured list. In short, this looked nothing like the team that crushed the Lakers last month in Oakland, and that has nothing to do with the addition of starter Tom Gugliotta.

Said Laker Coach Del Harris, a former assistant to Nelson with Milwaukee: “I’m sure he’ll get them back on track very soon. I just hope he waits a couple of hours.”

The first quarter probably seemed that long to Nelson. The Lakers built a double-digit lead 4:45 into the game and went up by 19 points, 36-17, with 1:09 left while shooting 56% in the quarter. The Warriors shot 26.1% and trailed by 17 after 12 minutes.

Laker Notes

Although the Lakers came into the night slightly behind last season’s average attendance of 13,315 for home games, the winning ways of late have had an effect. Steve Chase, the director of sales, said walk-up sales for games are about two or three times greater than usual, to about 1,000 per. But good showings or not, the Lakers don’t expect another season-ticket push until after New Year’s, when people have recovered from Christmas spending and as the football season ends. “I’m hoping we continue to play this well and that we take this momentum into January,” Chase said. Asked if it helps Laker attendance that the Clippers are playing--and drawing--so poorly, he added: “I don’t think that has any bearing. Frankly, they’re getting more publicity right now because everybody is wondering when they’re going to win.”