The Lakers finally found something else to count besides all those victories they've stacked in their corner. Now, the Lakers can also add up the number of sick and injured in their midst.
Let's see. Magic Johnson has the flu and a sore knee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a sore throat, Kurt Rambis has a sore foot and so does Larry Spriggs. It's time to check with the patients.
How do you feel, Magic?
"I feel bad," Johnson said.
And how's your knee?
"It feels bad, too," he said.
Imagine how the Phoenix Suns feel. They got run over Tuesday night by an ambulance full of Lakers, who paused just long enough to collect a 143-122 victory before 14,615 in the Forum.
It was a medical matchup, pitting the sickly Lakers against a team with a sickly record. And for the third time this season, the Lakers seemed to pull themselves together at the expense of the Suns.
So far this season, the Lakers have beaten the Suns by 37 points, 25 points and 21 points. The latest wipeout wasn't the easiest, but it might have been the most meaningful given the current fragile state of Laker health.
"All I know is our guys didn't play too sick," Laker Coach Pat Riley said.
That much was true, especially when the Lakers turned the game into a rout during the third quarter. But of all the Lakers who played either sick or hurt Tuesday night, Kurt Rambis might be the most seriously lame.
Rambis left the game in the third quarter complaining of a sore left foot, the same foot that gave him so many problems that he missed the first 32 games of the 1983-84 season.
Rambis, who will be examined today, has had a sore left foot and ankle for the past two weeks, although he has not missed any playing time.
Then there was Abdul-Jabbar. He wore a turtleneck sweater in the locker room before the game to protect his sore throat. The Suns had little to protect themselves from Abdul-Jabbar, who had 19 points, 6 assists and a season-high 5 blocked shots in 28 minutes.
"I don't feel as bad as I thought I would," Abdul-Jabbar said. "After we started playing, I didn't feel a thing."
Neither did the Suns. For them, the end was swift and painless. They stayed fairly close for the first half, then dropped out of sight midway through the third quarter when the Lakers ran off to a 22-point lead.
James Worthy, who isn't sick or hurt, scored 23 points to lead the Laker offense that also featured 21 points plus 19 assists by Johnson as well as 20 points from Byron Scott, another healthy Laker.
The Lakers did get a brief scare in the third quarter, but it wasn't because of the Suns, who fell to 14-22. Riley's heart skipped a beat when Johnson's right knee bumped into Larry Nance's knee.
Johnson limped off the court but returned after a timeout to finish off the Suns, much to the relief of Riley.
"We're trying to keep him well," Riley said. "We want him to wear those ugly old kneepads, but he always takes them off after wearing them for a couple of games. I'm sure he'll be wearing them tomorrow."
At the same time, the Lakers will be wearing a 30-6 record that suits them pretty well. Not even 30 points by Nance, 20 by James Edwards and 18 more by Alvan Adams could help the Suns diminish the Lakers' nine-game Pacific Division lead over Portland.
The Suns had two things going for them: a two-game winning streak and the return of Walter Davis, but neither one made much of a difference. Davis was playing in his second game since completing a 30-day treatment for cocaine and alcohol abuse. Held scoreless in the first half, Davis managed 15 points in the second half when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Nance said the Suns are glad to have Davis again.
"Everyone's a lot happier now that he's back," Nance said. "We need his leadership to help dig us out of this hole that we're in."
By halftime, the Lakers had put the Suns in a small hole that suddenly got a whole lot bigger. The Lakers increased their 13-point halftime lead to 88-66 on Johnson's driving layup only six minutes into the third quarter.
After that, the Lakers were able to maintain their lead, which is something they haven't done on a consistent basis this season. Mike McGee, who had 15 points in 12 minutes, plus 15 points from Maurice Lucas and 13 points and 5 assists from Michael Cooper kept the Suns from getting too close.
"We had a very productive night," Riley said.
Phoenix Coach John MacLeod could not argue with that.
"They look like the best team in the league to me," MacLeod said. "They're world champions and they've obviously lost very few games."
But just as obvious, the Lakers are starting to get a little unhealthy. The count has now reached four players, or one-third of the roster.
Will the Lakers get well soon? They play the Clippers Thursday night. Maybe that will make them feel better.