Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reached another milestone Friday night, and the Lakers won another game. Could anything else have happened?
Abdul-Jabbar, the leading scorer in the history of the National Basketball Assn., scored the 34,000th point of his NBA career, but since no other active player is within 13,000 points of him, he pretty much had the inside track to get there first, sooner or later. As it turned out, it was sooner.
And since the Lakers were playing the Indiana Pacers, the team with the worst record in the NBA, you had to figure the Lakers had as good a chance at winning as Abdul-Jabbar had at reaching 34,000 before anyone else.
So that's exactly what happened. Abdul-Jabbar added to his legend, and the Lakers added one to their victory column with a 124-102 decision before 17,505 fans at the Forum.
Abdul-Jabbar finished with 31 points, his sixth game this season with at least 30 and the 22nd time he has scored more than 20.
How many points is 34,000? Consider that a player who averaged 30 points a game for 10 years would still be 4,000 points short of reaching Abdul-Jabbar.
Magic Johnson thought of it in another way.
"It's incredible," he said. "I would have to die and come back three lifetimes to score that many points."
While Abdul-Jabbar's career scoring grew to 34,017, the Laker record rose right along with it. They are now 29-5, but who's counting?
Abdul-Jabbar insisted he wasn't counting his points as they rose toward 34,000.
"I wasn't even aware of it," he said. "Somebody told me last week, but I had forgotten about it."
George Gervin is the second-highest active scorer in the league, but he is more than 13,000 points behind Abdul-Jabbar.
"Yeah, but you got to watch out for those guys," Abdul-Jabbar said.
For awhile, the Lakers needed to watch out for the Pacers, who managed to keep the score close until the final seconds of the third quarter, when two big plays by Michael Cooper turned the game around.
Indiana trailed, 81-77, with six seconds left in the period when Cooper drove the lane for a basket. Then Maurice Lucas stole the inbounds pass and passed to Johnson, who got the ball to Cooper standing beyond the three-point line. Cooper's shot dropped through the basket with no time left on the clock.
The Lakers were suddenly no longer threatened, and they increased their 86-77 lead to 100-83 four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Laker Coach Pat Riley said the steal by Lucas and Cooper's three-pointer that followed changed the momentum of the game.
"It kind of broke their backs," he said.
Cooper, whose two previous three-point attempts were near-airballs, watched his success from the floor, where he fell after launching it.
"I was hoping it would go in," Cooper said. "I guess that was the apex of our game, because it snowballed after that. We just took it on in from there."
The Pacers dropped to 10-25 this season, but they played reasonably well until the fourth quarter, when they were outscored, 38-25. Steve Stipanovich, who led Indiana with 18 points, said there was little he could do against Abdul-Jabbar.
"He's so good," Stipanovich said. "I remember watching him in the championship game last season, when he was hitting that hook shot from 15 feet. This was kind of like that. He can score so well, but he also passes the ball extremely well, which I understand he didn't used to do."
Abdul-Jabbar began the game 14 points short of 34,000 and scored 13 in the first quarter. He quickly reached his new milestone with a free throw in the second quarter. When the announcement of his feat was made to the Forum crowd, Abdul-Jabbar received a 15-second standing ovation, which he acknowledged with a casual wave of his hands.
"I've set so many marks that it's beginning to be old hat," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I'm not saying that I'm not appreciative of them (the marks), but I guess the important thing is that the team continues to win."
The Lakers did continue to win, even though they shot only 46%, primarily because Abdul-Jabbar had a great offensive night, but also because the Lakers once again established dominance on the backboards.
Kurt Rambis had 13 rebounds in 27 minutes, Johnson had nine and Abdul-Jabbar got eight of the Laker total of 54. Rookie Wayman Tisdale was the only consistent Pacer rebounder and wound up with 9 in 27 minutes, although he shot only 5 for 15.
"The rebounding is the most impressive part of their game," Pacer Coach George Irvine said. "That's where they have really improved."
Laker Notes The Lakers are taking a 7:40 a.m. flight today to Seattle and will play the SuperSonics tonight at the Coliseum. The Lakers won the first matchup this season, 108-107, at the Forum. . . . The SuperSonics are 14-22 and have lost 12 of their last 17 games. . . . Last season, the Lakers split the six games they played with the SuperSonics, who were the only team in the NBA to beat the Lakers three times.