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Fox Finds the Right Response to Opener

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Happiness is being an insomniac.

Rick Fox finally drifted asleep at 3:30 a.m. Sunday, woke up about 7:30 and was on the court at the Great Western Forum around 9, three hours before tipoff. It was all either about being frustrated by the previous game or overly anxious for this one, but the outcome was the same.

A little rest.

A lot of satisfaction.

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Disappointed that foul trouble limited him to only 20 minutes Friday, cutting short his first playoff appearance in five years and turning a much-anticipated personal moment into one he’d rather forget, Fox responded Sunday by scoring a team-high 24 points to lead the Lakers’ 108-99 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2.

Motivation came on several fronts, actually. There was his move for redemption, and there was the assist by Forum public-address announcer Lawrence Tanter that will be with Fox for every home game.

Tanter read in the paper Sunday that Fox was super-charged by envisioning the “pot of gold” during Tanter’s pre-game announcement Friday, that it takes 15 wins for that championship, and that Fox didn’t know the Larry O’Brien Trophy was so named for the former commissioner. So Tanter copied a sheet that showed the breakdown of the four rounds and what it took to advance, and included a drawing of the trophy in the lower left corner, and then put it in Fox’s locker with a note saying, 15 wins to that pot of gold.

Fox taped it to the left wall of his cubicle.

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“I’ll read it every game,” he said.

Sunday’s, for starters, included the pride of an impressive showing, especially since it came after such a frustrating one. Unlike Friday, he had been able to join the party, “relieving some of that pressure” and reminding him again of the playoff-atmosphere he had so missed.

“I’m loving this time of year,” Fox said. “I’m not loving that I can’t sleep at night.”

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Two games into the playoffs, the Trail Blazers are doing little to hide their frustration over referees they feel are giving preferential treatment to the Lakers, the team that holds a 2-0 lead in the series and a 95-65 lead in free-throw attempts.

“Fifty-two to 21,” guard Damon Stoudamire said, noting the contrast in Sunday’s 108-99 victory for the Lakers. “That’s pretty much the tale of this game right there. I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t right. We come in this arena and play, and it’s touchy-touch fouls. We’ve got to play through it, I guess, but at the same time it gets a little frustrating too. Hopefully we’ll go home and get the same leeway and get those same calls.

“The turnovers are always frustrating. But it just seems like we can’t touch anybody, but they can touch people. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about this series.”

Added Isaiah Rider: “You get in trouble for speaking on the refs, but that’s ridiculous. That’s two games in a row. If we get slapped three times in a row on the arm and they get slapped once, they [officials] call a foul. That’s ridiculous.

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“I got slapped, Rasheed [Wallace] got slapped, Brian Grant got slapped. We get on the other end and one of their guys gets slapped and it’s free throws. You gotta call it both ways the same. I don’t care what team is what.”

And, finally, from Portland Coach Mike Dunleavy: “I thought our guys were going hard to the basket too. They [the Lakers] just had great timing today. They blocked everything and we fouled everything.”

Sarcasm noted.


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