The lesson the Indiana Pacers should have learned from that weekend side trip to Las Vegas during their two days off between Phoenix and Los Angeles was reinforced Monday night: You can't beat the house.
Lloyd Daniels, a small forward, beat long odds by snaking his way into the trenches to grab the offensive rebound that became a three-point play with 12.9 seconds left, giving the Lakers a 93-91 victory before 12,764 at the Forum.
If any of the three Pacers standing there--7-foot-4 Rik Smits, 6-10 Derrick McKey and 6-9 Antonio Davis--gets the ball first, they win. Instead, they bust.
The 6-7 Daniels started from the top slot on the right side of the lane as Vlade Divac missed a free throw with 16 seconds left after getting the Lakers within 91-90. Daniels then headed toward the baseline, curled around the Indiana players into the lane and scooped up the opportunity before twisting to throw a two-footer high off the glass.
"I did it on purpose," Divac deadpanned.
"Yeah," Sam Bowie added from the next locker, "we put that play in today in shoot-around."
When Daniels' shot went in, the Lakers had a 92-91 advantage. When he made the free throw and Reggie Miller's three-point shot with about two seconds left went astray, the Lakers were victorious.
"My main goal was just to put the ball high off the glass," Daniels said after finishing with a season-high and game-high 22 points. "Then I got fouled."
Laker Coach Del Harris said: "I know Larry Brown is going to be upset about that last basket. That's one you should never give up. You start out with your two rebounders in good defensive position. We make that mistake about once a game, but tonight it turned out in our favor."
Nick Van Exel was back in the starting lineup at point guard after missing Saturday's victory in Chicago because of back spasms, but that wasn't the only good medical news for the Lakers. Eddie Jones, who last played Feb. 19, met with team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo earlier in the day and was cleared to resume practice.
Jones celebrated by going through some drills and playing a light pickup game with assistant coach Larry Drew before the game, a workout of about 45 minutes that marked the first time he had shot a ball since spraining his right shoulder. The rookie guard can take part in all non-contact activities but is still prohibited from dunking. He could be activated in two weeks.
"When we first got out there, you could tell he hadn't picked up a ball in a while," Drew said. "But once we were out there 20, 30 minutes, you could see him start to get the stroke back."
Jones said: "It felt foreign for a minute. It felt like I was playing cricket, like I wasn't supposed to do it. But after I got going, it felt good."
The news was not so encouraging for Randolph Keys, the 10-day signee who had been averaging 16 minutes a game before he strained an abdominal muscle against the Bulls. He will be re-evaluated in about a week, but indications are that he is through for the season. A similar injury kept teammate Antonio Harvey out for six months last year.
The Lakers are expected to announce that they will sign Keys for the rest of the season at about $42,000, even though they are under no obligation to do so.
Teams are not permitted to waive an injured player, but are allowed to let 10-day contracts run out even if that player is not physically sound.
Lloyd Daniels will probably be signed for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired following the Pacer game. He has started the last nine games at small forward, a job he may hold for at least two more weeks. . . . Cedric Ceballos is on schedule to return in the first or second week of April. . . . Anthony Peeler failed in his attempt to become the first Laker since February 1991 to score at least 20 points in six consecutive games. Peeler had three against Indiana. Ceballos and Nick Van Exel had also recorded five 20-plus games in a row this season.