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Lakers Spudder in Loss at Atlanta

February 25, 1986|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTA — The Lakers had their one-game winning streak snapped Monday night. That was the big news. The small print said that Anthony (Spud) Webb did it.

One day after scoring an important victory in overtime in Philadelphia, the Lakers got caught with both their energy and their defense lagging. Those were the only openings Webb needed.

Webb, listed at 5-feet 7-inches and the smallest player in the NBA, put up some large numbers in Atlanta's 102-93 victory over the Lakers before a sellout crowd of 16,522 at the Omni.

Jetting in and out and straight through the Laker defense as if on roller skates, Webb had season highs of 23 points and 13 assists.

"Driving hard is something I've done all my life," Webb said. "If they block it, they block it, but I always come back."

Spud drove and he dunked as the Hawks beat the Lakers for the first time in almost seven years. After 12 straight losses to the Lakers, the Hawks were probably overdue for a change in their luck.

Laker luck seems to change every day, depending mainly on who is hurt. The list has now risen to three.

With James Worthy out until at least Friday because of a groin injury, the Lakers were already short-handed. Then Mitch Kupchak decided he couldn't play either, which meant the Lakers had only 10 players available..

Kupchak hurt his left knee in Sunday's win at Philadelphia, and it stiffened up on him in pregame warmups Monday night, so he watched the game from the bench in street clothes.

Byron Scott played 38 minutes but twisted his right ankle in the third quarter. The ankle was swollen and sore afterward.

"It's bad, I know that," Scott said.

What Webb did was even worse.

Webb scored 14 points in the third quarter when Atlanta assumed control, and although Spud sputtered in the fourth quarter, the Lakers found themselves with nothing to give when they had a chance to win.

This is the way it's going for the Lakers these days. They move forward, then drop back in the other direction. In their last 19 games, they are only 10-9, and they are faced with the possibility of a losing record on this five-game trip if they don't defeat Dallas on Wednesday night in the finale.

"It's definitely a step back for us," said Larry Spriggs, who started again in place of the Worthy. "We always seemed to get pumped up for a big game, win it, then struggle and lose to teams around .500 (actually, the Hawks are 33-24) who let the air out of our balloon."

For the third time in their last four games, the Lakers failed to score 100 points. Magic Johnson came up with 23, matched by Maurice Lucas, who rediscovered his touch and made 8 of 14 shots after a 1-for-9 performance against the 76ers.

Johnson and Lucas, who scored his season high, kept the Lakers reasonably close, and so did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who finished with 22 points and his season high of 12 rebounds.

But for some reason, the Lakers just didn't have it.

"Spud didn't surprise me," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I expected a tough game from Atlanta, but we have a lot of guys hurting and played a very draining game Sunday. The Hawks were very aggressive."

Dominique Wilkins led the Hawks with 33 points, yet Webb made the biggest impact on the game. How often does a 5-7 guy dominate? Well, it's happened at least once now.

Webb scored eight straight points near the end of the third quarter, blasting straight ahead to the middle of the Laker defense and right at Johnson, who had no luck guarding him.

Neither did any of the Lakers, according to Coach Pat Riley.

"It didn't matter who we put on him," Riley said. "They came so hard on the break, especially Spud, that no one could get in front of him. He is an incredible threat. There was no way we could contain him."

After trailing by one point at the half and by seven after three quarters, the Lakers fell behind by 11, then used two long jumpers by Johnson to come within 90-83 midway through the fourth quarter.

Webb hit a free throw and Wilkins scored on a jumper before the Hawks seemed to put it out of reach. Twice Webb drove the middle and passed off to Randy Wittman, who buried a pair of jumpers to give Atlanta a 97-83 lead.

The Lakers had another chance when Webb had a shot blocked and threw the ball away twice, but Wittman scored again with just under a minute left for a 99-87 Atlanta lead.

Consecutive three-pointers by Scott and Johnson got the Lakers within 99-93 with 30 seconds left, but they didn't score again.

The Lakers had only four baskets in the last 6 minutes 22 seconds of the game. They shot only 42%. They missed eight layups. They also missed 10 free throws, but most of all, Riley said, they missed the same level of energy they had in Philadelphia.

"It was obvious we didn't bring a trampoline with us," Riley said. "We needed it to match the energy level that the Hawks had. It wasn't like we didn't put out the effort. We put out all we had.

"The game in Philadelphia took something out of us," he said. "But I don't want to use that as an excuse. It just wasn't there for us."

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