INDIANAPOLIS — The Lakers scored fewer points Wednesday night than they had in any other game this season. The good news for them was that the Indiana Pacers scored even fewer.
This was certainly no masterpiece. As a work of art, the Lakers' 90-81 victory was strictly a finger-painting job. Not that it mattered to them.
"We'll take them any way they come," Michael Cooper said. "If the other team defaulted to us, 2-0, we would settle for that, too."
The Lakers had scored fewer than 100 points in a game only six times this season and had won only once while doing so.
But this time, one factor helped them: They happened to be in Market Square Arena and playing the Pacers, who continually managed to botch things when they still had a chance in the fourth quarter.
By then, James Worthy was long gone, even though the game wasn't. Worthy left with only eight minutes gone in the first quarter after being kneed in the groin by the Pacers' Vern Fleming.
"When I went up to block his shot, I got his knee," Worthy said. "I thought I could shake it off, but I just couldn't."
Worthy did not return. Somehow, the Pacers did, even though they scored only 15 points in the second quarter and 16 in the third.
Indiana trailed, 75-58, with 10 minutes left in the game before moving back within 79-71 with just under seven minutes left.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson had 21 points apiece to lead the Lakers, who looked like an easy winner until a pair of castoffs, Ron Anderson and Bryan Warrick, shot the Pacers back.
But Indiana committed seven turnovers the rest of the way. Three occurred on the fast break, including a double dribble by Anderson when the Pacers could have moved within four points with just more than a minute remaining.
"I would like to think that our defense contributed," Laker Coach Pat Riley said.
It would be nice to believe so, but it wouldn't be too accurate.
However, Abdul-Jabbar did block four shots, and five other Lakers combined to block seven, all of which was partly responsible for Indiana shooting only 40.2%.
For a while, the Lakers were having so much trouble scoring points that the Pacers were behind by only 42-39 at halftime.
With so many players missing so many shots, there were a lot of rebounds bouncing around, and the Lakers got more of them, outrebounding the Pacers, 50-46. Maurice Lucas played 31 minutes and finished with 10 rebounds, while Kurt Rambis had 9 and Abdul-Jabbar 8.
Indiana received 24 points and 13 rebounds from Herb Williams, but not much from anybody else. This isn't too unusual. The Pacers have scored fewer than 80 points on two other occasions this season.
In any event, the Pacers got four consecutive points from Fleming in their last charge, right after Abdul-Jabbar's hook with 3:04 left had put the Lakers ahead, 85-75.
The Lakers did not score a basket the rest of the game. They did, however, get five points on free throws and watched the Pacers blow their chance with three turnovers, three missed shots and a solitary basket.
So it was not exactly a rousing finish for either team, but the Lakers found much to be thankful for. At least, they didn't lose.
"Are you kidding? Sure, we'll take it," Riley said. "We've been so up and down, it was a good win, coming off the loss to Boston on Sunday. I really think we pointed too much to that game.
"We were waiting to play them, even though we were playing games in the meantime, but we were still waiting for them," he said of the Celtics. "But I'm not worrying about losses anymore. I have to believe our best basketball is ahead of us."
There were a couple of positive notes for the Lakers. Johnson played 39 minutes, the most time since the Detroit game a month ago.
And Byron Scott, who had 7 points, came back from shooting 1 for 8 in the first half to bury a couple of jumpers in the second half, which seemed to lift his confidence level.
"I feel like I'm coming back," he said. "The second half was an indication of that. I was just relaxed, I think."
The Lakers shot only 43.4%, and Worthy missed all five of his field-goal attempts before sitting out the rest of the game. Afterward, he was still in pain, and trainer Gary Vitti didn't know if Worthy would be ready to play Friday night at New Jersey.
Riley knew immediately that Worthy was hurting.
"It takes a lot for him to come out," he said. "The way he plays, making moves and cutting, we won't take any chances on him, at all."