RICHFIELD, Ohio — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in combat fatigues? Right. Might as well put Clint Eastwood in short pants and high-top sneakers.
But guess which Laker center saw some of himself in the hero of "Heartbreak Ridge."
"They were trying to tell him he was over the hill, too," said Abdul-Jabbar, who saw Eastwood's latest film on one of the three days the Lakers spent here before beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 121-116, Tuesday night.
That wasn't Abdul-Jabbar standing up in the middle of the theater, urging Eastwood on.
"I didn't stand up," he said, "but I was definitely cheering."
It was a case of one tough guy appreciating another, said fellow movie-goer Michael Cooper, the Laker forward. "They both come through and lead the troops."
Abdul-Jabbar scored 25 points, 15 in a first quarter that served as a primer for Brad Daugherty, the rookie Cavalier center who was the first player selected in last spring's National Basketball Assn. draft.
"The first time I saw him play, I think I was in the fourth grade," an appreciative Daugherty said of Abdul-Jabbar. "That's a story in itself. His longevity is amazing."
When it came time for the Laker charge Tuesday night, Abdul-Jabbar was in the vanguard with Magic Johnson, who had his first triple-double of the season--25 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
Johnson had a hand in 23 of the team's 35 points in the third quarter, when the Lakers scored 12 straight points to erase a 73-66 Cleveland lead, then continued to pour it on in a 26-7 run.
"Magic's going to take advantage of anybody, especially a young player," said Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens, who used to exploit a few rookies himself when he was a guard.
The task of trying to keep up with Johnson fell to rookie Ron Harper, the flashiest of the five newcomers on the Cleveland roster.
"He's going to be an exciting, exciting player," Johnson said of Harper. "He has so many moves, fakes and hesitations. It's hard to get a grip on what he's going to do.
"He's got the hang glide, switches hands, double-pumps and has an array of shots that makes him tough."
Harper, drafted from Miami of Ohio, had 16 points and 12 assists but was as helpless as the rest of the Cavaliers when the Lakers turned on the after-burners.
The Lakers' James Worthy, who finished with 22 points, swooped in for three driving baskets, stole a pass and also fed Abdul-Jabbar for a basket in the 10-0 run.
Harper was at his worst when he wound up on the free-throw line, missing 7 of 12 attempts.
The Laker lead grew to 16, 117-101, before the Cavaliers scored nine straight points to make it interesting. That's when Eastwood, er, Abdul-Jabbar, dropped in one last skyhook.
The win gave the Lakers a 17-5 record, 3-2 on a trip that began eight nights ago in New York and wound up with three days in Beachwood, Ohio, the Cleveland suburb in which the Lakers stayed.
How long is three days in Beachwood, Ohio?
"Well, it's not like an extended vacation at the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara, which is where I'd like to be," Riley said.
Said guard Wes Matthews: "It was like two weeks on no-man's island."
Today, the Lakers come home, but not for long. They play Portland at the Forum Thursday night, then leave the next day for games in Dallas, Houston, and Sacramento.
"We'll be home not long at all," Cooper said, "but at least we'll get to see the kids and make sure the families haven't run off someplace."
And maybe Abdul-Jabbar will have time to catch another Eastwood flick. Just imagine what might happen if he fancies "Dirty Harry."