They came, they saw, they saw some more.
The Lakers' two-game Texas swing ended Wednesday night much the way it started, with a show by the home team at their expense. This time, a night after getting routed at San Antonio, they at least lasted until late in the third quarter before being brushed aside, 112-99, by Clyde Drexler and the Houston Rockets before 16,285 at the Summit.
The day began with Vlade Divac limping, but that only meant he beat teammates to the punch by several hours. His, at least, was of the medical variety, having heard a pop in the right knee during the third quarter of the 28-point debacle against the Spurs and then waking to pain Wednesday morning.
He said the joint bothers him a lot. The Lakers may send their starting center to team physician, Steve Lombardo, today in Los Angeles, but early indications are that the injury is not serious. Divac was even cleared by Rocket doctors to play more than the 22 minutes, but he was obviously limping, so Coach Del Harris held him out.
"A lot of pain," Divac said. "I thought it was nothing. But I woke up this morning and it hurt. Every time when I bend my right knee, I feel it for a second, a pain."
The Lakers know the feeling. Most every time they bend their necks to look at the scoreboard, they feel a pain. For more than a second.
In breaking a five-game losing streak to the Lakers, the Rockets turned a 68-61 lead midway through the third quarter into a blowout by finishing the period with a 17-6 run. Drexler accounted for 13 of those Houston points.
The Lakers' third look at Drexler the Rocket should have been familiar, if not more. Heput up nice numbers against them last season--41 points and 14 rebounds in two outings--then hit them for 34 points and 10 boards in the first meeting of 1995-96.
Drexler scored 19 points in that third quarter. The Lakers had 14.
"He's playing like a young kid," Houston Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He's really getting the most out of his game."
Added Harris: "I think he was the oldest player on the court most of the time . . . and he played with the most energy of any player on a consistent basis."
The Lakers began the trip giving up 100.6 points a game, then got hit for 117 and 112 by the two Texas teams. That dropped them to 2-7 on the road, with more trouble ahead: home games Friday and Sunday followed by a six-game trip that includes stops at New York and Chicago.
Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon did most of the damage. With Divac hurt and Elden Campbell in foul trouble, Olajuwon contributed 30 points and 13 rebounds in only 28 minutes.
Cedric Ceballos led the Lakers with 27 points and 17 rebounds, the latter a career high. Campbell had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lakers escaped without a technical foul or more serious incident, meaning they may need to go only another two games without strangling a replacement official. The regular referees, locked out since the start of the season, return Monday. "I thought our team did struggle adjusting to them," Coach Del Harris said of the temps, the source of great frustration to most Lakers. "Being a young team, perhaps we did let some of their calls maybe affect us a little more than we should, especially earlier in the season." It didn't get much better recently. Wednesday at San Antonio, referee Mike Bobiak ejected Elden Campbell with two technicals and gave one each to Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. That comes after Bobiak also hit Cedric Ceballos with one Nov. 21 against Portland.
There has been some fallout in Vancouver over the Lakers forgetting to play the Canadian anthem last Friday when the Grizzlies made their first visit to the Forum, but not much. One talk-show host, Dan Russell on station CFMI, began his show the next day by talking about the perceived snub, and Jay Triano, the team's color analyst, made mention during the broadcast that night. Triano captained two Canadian Olympic squads, including 1984 at the Forum. Few, if any, calls or faxes have been received by the team, but Executive Vice President Jerry West sent a letter to Arthur Griffith, the Grizzlies' CEO, repeating an earlier apology by the Lakers. Toronto comes to the Forum on Friday.