This is some rivalry, all right. Sure it is. When the Clippers loaded the vans in San Diego and moved north, great things were expected from their games with the Lakers.
It hasn't exactly turned out that way, at least so far. Tuesday night, for the third time in three games, the Lakers beat the Clippers. This time, it was 123-114 at the Forum, and it wasn't nearly that close.
Of course, it might have been. The Clippers had to go without forward Marques Johnson, who missed the game because of a twisted ankle, and that certainly hurt them. But Johnson wasn't the only thing missing from the Laker-Clipper matchup. So was any hint of a rivalry.
"The only way a rivalry is going to develop is if they start beating us," Kurt Rambis said. "They could lose the rest of their games, but if they beat us, then they've got something going."
For a half, the Clippers looked as if they might be up to something, but they disappeared in the third quarter about the same time Rambis showed up.
Even though he was a starter at power forward for the third consecutive game, Rambis didn't have a great impact until the third quarter. The Lakers turned a 53-50 game into a rout with a 37-point third quarter during which Rambis collected 10 rebounds.
The Lakers led by 14 points after three quarters and quickly ran off to a 107-86 lead less than five minutes into the fourth quarter. The rest of the game was garbage time, which allowed the Clippers a chance to make the final score respectable.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 23 points in 31 minutes, while James Worthy and Byron Scott each scored 16 points. Rambis, however, produced the most noticeable statistics: 28 minutes, 12 rebounds, 13 points.
Rambis made six of 10 shots and felt so good he even tried a jump shot. He missed.
"My outside shot is something I've meant to bring out of the closet," Rambis said.
After the first half, the Clippers were largely in the dark. Bill Walton played 32 minutes and had 16 rebounds, but James Donaldson came up with only four rebounds in 34 minutes.
Four of Rambis' rebounds were at the offensive end and helped the Lakers work the Clippers over at the foul line, where there is no defense. The Lakers scored 28 points on free throws to 15 for the Clippers.
Of course, the Laker fast break did its damage, too, which usually happens when the team plays well. Magic Johnson finished with 13 assists, including a no-look sideways one-bounce pass to Jamaal Wilkes early in the fourth quarter.
That came when the Lakers were free-stroking in their open court game.
"They got so many easy baskets it was incredible," said Derek Smith, who scored 20 points despite wearing goggles to protect a ruptured tear duct in his left eye.
There was nothing, however, to protect the Clippers from the Laker fast break.
"That's their game--pressure offense," Clipper guard Norm Nixon said. "Spurts are what you have to guard against with a fast-break team."
The Lakers credited Rambis with getting the break going. Rambis, who lost his starting job after the first four games, said he was slow getting on track this season because he was tired.
Rambis worked in Pete Newell's camp, lifted weights and played pickup games at UCLA during the off-season, but when the regular season began, he was already burned out.
"I was mentally exhausted," Rambis explained.
That's all in the past now, he said, which goes along with what Laker Coach Pat Riley expects.
"Our strength has to come from rebounding," Riley said. "He made the difference in cracking the game open, and it didn't come from anything else but effort. That's all he's got to do for me.
"Players who are role players and who don't have a lot of talent have to work harder," Riley said.
And all the Clippers have to do is get healthy. Michael Cage played with a lower back bruise and Harvey Catchings didn't play at all because of a heel injury. Add Johnson and Smith's ailments to the list and you can see why the Clippers had trouble establishing any kind of a rivalry.
"It seems like whenever we get something going, we lose players to injuries," Nixon said. "But that's the NBA. We just have to try to get through it without burying ourselves in the standings."
Bob McAdoo also missed the game because of a bruised left heel. McAdoo, who missed eight games in November with a sprained right knee, said he hurt his heel late in Saturday night's game at Golden State. . . . Bill Walton played in his 37th consecutive game, the longest streak of Walton's 11 NBA seasons. Walton was out three full seasons because of injuries, but he has missed only two games this season. . . . In a story in Tuesday's Times, Chicago attorneys George and Harry Andrews were incorrectly referred to as brothers. Harry Andrews is George Andrews' uncle.