Ceballos, Campbell Show Something to Trail Blazers


They get better returns at the Forum these days than most precincts on election night.

Sunday, Nick Van Exel broke out of a monthlong slump, and then Wednesday, opening a critical four-game stretch with playoff implications, two more Lakers came back. This time, it was Elden Campbell getting a career-high 32 points to probably win his old job back and Cedric Ceballos scoring nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter in a 121-114 victory over Portland that opened a four-game lead over the Trail Blazers for sixth place in the Western Conference.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Ceballos said after his first game since Feb. 3, when he suffered a torn ligament in the right thumb. “There wasn’t any pressure. If I was coming back in the playoffs, then I’d be nervous. But I knew I had a good team out there. I thought I’d just get my feet wet.”

Instead, he practically jumped in.

Wearing a plastic splint to protect the finger, Ceballos played the final seven minutes of the first quarter, grabbing three rebounds and going two for two from the foul line but missing all four shots, including a pair of three-pointers. He didn’t play in the second quarter, when the Lakers overcame a 12-point deficit to take a 66-61 lead at halftime. He didn’t play the third quarter, either.


Then came the fourth. He started and never came out. He made three of five shots and added three rebounds. He looked good after the bad start.

“I knew the first time I got in the game, it would be a bad situation,” the All-Star forward said, referring to the adrenaline rush after being out for 22 games. “The second time, it’s what would happen then.”

Campbell, meanwhile, had 19 points by intermission.

When the Trail Blazers were within 116-110 with 58 seconds to play, he slammed the door with a slam dunk, providing an eight-point cushion with 49 seconds left that would never be challenged.

He had not been out with an injury before this, of course. Just kind of out there, averaging only 7.8 points and three rebounds in 15 minutes the previous five outings as a reserve. But in helping the Lakers win the game, he also helped himself. Coach Del Harris said afterward that Campbell would probably go back into his usual role as the starting power forward for Friday’s game against Washington.

“That doesn’t make any difference,” said Campbell, who also had a team-high 11 rebounds. “Just the minutes. I was starting and playing 15. Coming off the bench, I got 38. Give me 38.”

The return of Ceballos, which sent Randolph Keys to the injured list because of a strained abdominal muscle, was not the only shake-up for the Lakers. Looking to counter 6-10 Clifford Robinson and hoping to get a boost in rebounding after his team had been beaten on the boards the previous four games, Harris started Kurt Rambis at small forward, the first time Rambis has been in the opening lineup all season.


“Just a feeling I have to match up with his inside game and rebounding,” Harris said of Robinson.

It worked fine the first 15 seconds. From there, Robinson used his speed to make an eight-foot runner, drawing a foul from Rambis in the process, then made three of five shots and grabbed a rebound before the game was five minutes old.

That was the end of Rambis’ night. Harris called for Ceballos, who got some applause from the 12,123 fans the moment he stepped off the bench. When he checked in with 6:56 remaining in the opening quarter, the crowd roared.

It was a start, which was all the Lakers were really looking for from their leading scorer. In the end, they got much more.

Laker Notes

Del Harris took it to a new level Wednesday by starting Kurt Rambis, but he had used three power forwards at the same time in two of the previous three games, against Golden State and Sacramento. Antonio Harvey got the tough assignment both times because he had to defend a small forward, Chris Mullin of the Warriors and Lionel Simmons of the Kings. “It’s a little bit more running,” Harvey said, “but I said it when I came in. I’ll play any position necessary.” Said Harris: “There’s two ends of it. It’s a little stiff on offense, but you pick up a little something with defense and rebounding perhaps.” . . . Clifford Robinson finished with 27 points, as did teammate Otis Thorpe. Thorpe made 13 of 16 shots. . . . Cedric Ceballos is expected to wear the thumb splint for a week.