Some nights, the Lakers don't need an especially prolific offensive performance from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win. In fact, when the Laker fast break is going full throttle, they sometimes don't even need Abdul-Jabbar in the front court.
Wednesday seemed to be one of those nights, but Abdul-Jabbar provided his most impressive game of the young season anyway, scoring 25 points in 26 minutes to help power the Lakers to a 122-97 win over the Seattle SuperSonics before 13,694 at the Forum.
It was the second time in a little more than a week that the Lakers (4-1) have blown out the SuperSonics, who are 3-2 against the rest of the NBA but 0-2 against the Lakers.
Fortunately for the SuperSonics, they won't have to face the Lakers again until late January. Maybe by then the Lakers will have forgotten how they went about beating Seattle by 14 points last week on the road and by 25 on Wednesday night.
Abdul-Jabbar usually is at his best against the more challenging centers in the league. His season-high is 27 against Akeem Olajuwon in the opening loss to Houston.
But Abdul-Jabbar seemed equally as motivated and animated against Alton Lister and Clemon Johnson, Seattle's not-so-inspiring big men. The 39-year-old center made 8 of his last 10 shots and had 8 rebounds, accumulating all his rebounds and all but four of his 25 points in the first half.
Three of Abdul-Jabbar's baskets came on sky hooks with his left hand, which rates high on his degree of difficulty. Abdul-Jabbar's display of inside moves impresses perhaps everyone except for Abdul-Jabbar.
"All I can get," he said, referring to the left-handed hooks. "Everybody's playing me for the hook on the right side, so sometimes I have to go the other way. The shots were there, so . . . "
So, he took them.
In the last few games, though, Abdul-Jabbar basically had let others do the bulk of the scoring. But Wednesday night, James Worthy (20 points) and Magic Johnson (19 points, 10 assists) did not overshadow Abdul-Jabbar.
"He's been deferring the last three or four games," Laker Coach Pat Riley said of Abdul-Jabbar. "But tonight, we went to him and he decided to take it (to the SuperSonics).
"Kareem has the tendency to surprise you like that. As soon as people start saying he's not scoring any more, he'll have a great game. They used to say the same thing about Wilt (Chamberlain), and then he'd get 64 or something. I think it's good that we don't have to go to him all the time, because we always have him if we need it."
Even if Abdul-Jabbar had not produced, the Lakers still probably would have beaten the SuperSonics, coming off a disheartening loss Tuesday night against Philadelphia. In that game, Seattle lost a 27-point third-quarter lead.
This one, though, was decided by halftime, when the Lakers had a 16-point lead. A 12-4 Laker run in the first four minutes of the third quarter buried the SuperSonics and the final 20 minutes was simply played out mostly by the reserves.
For SuperSonic reserve forward Maurice Lucas, making his first appearance at the Forum since the Lakers waived him last September, it was definitely a forgettable night.
Late in the third quarter, Lucas missed an open dunk, but he quickly redeemed himself by getting the rebound and passing to Xavier McDaniel for a layup. The crowd cheered when Lucas missed the dunk, and booed when he had the assist.
Lucas' big embarrassment came early in the fourth quarter. Laker reserve center Frank Brickowski had scored inside and was fouled, sending him to the free-throw line for one shot. Brickowski missed the free throw and the rebound came to Lucas, who slapped the ball out of bounds to referee Dick Baveta. Lucas apparently thought Brickowski had two shots. When Baveta signaled that the Lakers again had possession, Lucas realized his mistake and said to Baveta, "I just I (bleeped) it up."
It was not an auspicious return for the 34-year-old Lucas, whom the Lakers felt was too old and too slow to fit into their plans. Lucas hoped for redemption Wednesday night, but he didn't get it.
"I've been bothered by a rotator cuff (in the right shoulder)," Lucas said. "I wanted to beat them. In better times, there would have been (a revenge motive)."
What was Lucas' impression of the Lakers, based on one game?
"The starting team is, of course, very strong," he said, choosing words carefully. "As strong as before. And they played well tonight. When the starting team plays well, everyone comes in and plays well for them."
But what about the Laker bench? Lucas, after all, was the first big man off the bench last season.
"That's immaterial," Lucas said.
In this case, it was.
The Lakers didn't need the bench. The starters played strong defense, forcing the SuperSonics to shoot just 41.8%. Seattle had an 18-9 rebounding advantage at one point, but the SuperSonics finished with only a 51-50 advantage.