Mercifully, the season series between the Lakers and Clippers ended Saturday night. This was about as competitive as Georgetown-Lehigh, only worse because these cross-town teams had to meet six times.
The Lakers, of course, won all six games, hardly breaking a sweat in the process. They completed the sweep with an easy 123-112 win over the obviously out-manned Clippers before a sellout crowd of 15,371 at the Sports Arena.
As was the case in the five previous meetings, there wasn't much doubt that the Lakers would win. The only reason the Clippers made it reasonably close was because the Lakers let them.
After building a 17-point lead early in the third quarter, the Lakers down-shifted to cruise control in preparation for garbage time. But the Clippers managed to cut the lead to four points midway through the fourth quarter before the Lakers put them away for good with a 12-2 run.
So, the city's two National Basketball Assn. teams continued to go in vastly different directions. The Lakers, who clinched their fourth Pacific Division title Friday night, stretched their winning streak to seven games. For the Clippers, it was their 12th loss in the last 13 games.
The Lakers have been playing so well lately that blowout wins are expected. With the exception of Friday night's narrow victory over San Antonio, the Lakers have won each game in their streak by at least 10 points.
Also during the streak, they have placed seven players in double figures in each win. Saturday night, they again again had seven in double figures. Magic Johnson led the attack with 25 points, while James Worthy had 20, Byron Scott 18 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 16. Mitch Kupchak had 12, and Kurt Rambis and Michael Cooper had 10 each.
Not surprisingly, Derek Smith almost single-handedly kept the Clippers from being blown out. Smith scored 34 points--30 through three quarters--in what is becoming a routine performance. It was the 12th straight game in which Smith has led the Clippers in scoring, and he has averaged 28 points in that span.
Once the Lakers took command in the fourth quarter, the only suspense was whether Abdul-Jabbar would reach double figures for the 605th consecutive game. Plagued by early foul trouble, Abdul-Jabbar had scored just nine points through three quarters. But he sank a sky-hook with 5:54 left in the game to keep the steak alive.
In addition, Abdul-Jabbar reached another milestone--33,000 points--early in the second half when he hit two free throws. Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time scoring leader, now has 33,008 points.
At least the Clippers didn't begin Saturday's game as badly as they did on Feb. 12, the last time they played the Lakers. In that game, the Lakers had a 21-2 lead in the first five minutes and rolled to another easy victory.
This time, though, the Clippers stayed close throughout the first half. The Lakers still took a 58-49 lead into the third quarter, but they had to work for it.
The Clippers had an early lead, but the Lakers overtook them when Abdul-Jabbar dunked with 5:50 left to make it, 11-10, Lakers. For the rest of the quarter, the closest the Clippers could get was three points.
It must have come as somewhat of a surprise to the Lakers when they found themselves under the pressure of the Clippers' half-court trap, which hadn't been that effective new Coach Don Chaney until Saturday. Under former Coach Jim Lynam, the Clippers rarely used the trap, letting the Lakers set up their offense without a bother.
But as their 10 turnovers in the first half indicated, the Lakers definitely were bothered by the trap. Still, it wasn't enough to deter them from building as much as an 11-point lead late in the second quarter.
The Lakers rotated 10 players in the first half, mostly because of foul trouble. Abdul-Jabbar spent most of the half on the bench with three fouls and scoring only six points. But Kupchak, Abdul-Jabbar's replacement, scored six points and played creditably.
Worthy led the Lakers with 12 first-half points, six coming on dunks. Magic Johnson and Cooper each had eight points, and Scott added six.
As usual, Smith led the Clippers with 15 points. Smith was almost unstoppable in the first half, scoring 12 of the Clippers' 20 points. Bill Walton had eight points, all in the second quarter. Marques Johnson also had eight points in the first half.
The Lakers shot 52.1% in the half to only 45.5% for the Clippers. The most glaring statistic was rebounding, where the Lakers held a 32-15 edge.
Notes Laker broadcaster Chick Hearn should receive some type of medal--maybe a purple (and gold) heart award--for longevity. Saturday's game was Hearn's 1,800th consecutive Laker broadcast. . . . The Lakers are closing in on a club record for the biggest margin of winning the Pacific Division (18). They lead Portland by 18 and Phoenix by 18 1/2. . . . Michael Cage's sprained right ankle, which forced him to miss the last two Clipper games, healed well enough for him to suit up Saturday night. . . . The Lakers are off until Tuesday, when they travel to Phoenix.