A two-day vacation in the middle of the season? It just doesn't happen, at least not on any team that Pat Riley coaches.
At least it never happened in any of Riley's first five seasons as Laker coach. But this week, Riley relented, giving the Lakers a two-day break from basketball.
How did the Lakers take to that idea? Well, Thursday night at the Forum, they staged a block party in a 129-109 win over the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers did the blocking, rejecting a season-high 13 shots, and a sellout crowd of 17,505 did the partying. And it all came at the expense of the Warriors, who are something less than fearsome out of their own neighborhood.
"Did I forget about basketball? Totally," said Magic Johnson, who hardly lacked recall Thursday night, scoring 31 points--the same as James Worthy, who had a chance to rest his aching knees.
"I did nothing," Magic said. "I stayed home and relaxed in the tub. I was going to see some movies, but I ended up so relaxed, I just stayed home and didn't go.
"I did go on two nice long drives and just got away, got my thoughts together."
It was apparent at the outset that the Lakers--who had lost two straight games, one to the Warriors in Oakland, before squeaking out a win over San Antonio--had gotten their game together, too.
A.C. Green set the tone for the Lakers' evening on Golden State's first possession when he blocked center Joe Barry Carroll's shot. By the time Warrior Coach George Karl called time out, 2 minutes 20 seconds into the game, the Warriors were down, 9-0.
That Laker lead went as high as 19, at 31-12, in the first quarter, and as high as 20 in the first half, at 50-30, as the Lakers blocked nine shots en route to a 69-55 lead at intermission.
The Warriors took advantage of Laker foul trouble to climb back into it and actually went ahead, 93-92, on Terry Teagle's 18-footer with 36 seconds left in the third quarter, the last of Golden State's 38-point splurge in the period.
"I think you can attribute that to everyone being in foul trouble," Johnson said. "We took a step back. In the first quarter, we were blocking shots and going after people.
"But then came the fouls. Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) couldn't be aggressive, I couldn't be aggressive, A.C. had three fouls, and they took it to us."
But Worthy, in perhaps his best all-around game of the season--13 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in 44 minutes to go along with his season-high point production--spotted Kurt Rambis barreling down the lane. Worthy flicked a pass that Rambis turned into a three-point play, making a little hook shot, drawing a foul from Jerome Whitehead and making the free throw.
After Byron Scott tied up Eric (Sleepy) Floyd for a jump ball that went to the Lakers, Magic Johnson drew a thoughtless foul from Rod Higgins at midcourt and made both free throws.
The Lakers led, 97-93, at the start of a 14-2 run that was fueled by Scott, who scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter and finished the game with 26. The Warriors drew within five, 106-101, but the Lakers went on another 14-4 tear, highlighted by a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass from Magic to Worthy, who jammed it.
Worthy hadn't practiced the day before the Laker loss in Oakland--the second defeat for the Lakers there this season--and it showed the next night, when he was held scoreless in the first half.
The Laker with the second-most famous set of goggles has patellar tendinitis in both knees, and recently the pain in his left knee has been especially aggravating.
"I think it may be the ailment of the '80's--it's a jumper's disease," said Riley, whose own career as a player was ended by a similar condition in his quadriceps. "He's learning how to play with it. But James never says anything about it; he wants to practice."
The condition is not a new one for Worthy. "But it hasn't stayed with me this long," he said.
"It comes and goes, like a headache, something like a headache in the knee."
In the loss at Oakland, Worthy said: "I was disappointed. They did a good job of congesting the inside, and instead of going on and playing hard, I became a little passive and frustrated. It was out of character for me."
For that matter, so is 13 rebounds.
"It's something I have to work on," he said. "There are nights when I just get three or four. When I'm tuned in, I think I can get eight or nine a game. It's just a matter of concentrating."
Johnson, who also has tendinitis in his knees, said: "For what he does, James needs his legs and knees more than me, especially on offense. But with that rest, tonight he really got that quick move; he was really doing his thing.
"Everybody knows their own selves, but when James is concentrating, he's unstoppable."
The Lakers did a good job stopping Carroll, who had scored 30 points last Saturday in Oakland but scored just two in the first half this time and had 13 for the game.
The Warriors were outrebounded by the Lakers, 52-38. Rambis had 7 rebounds and 10 points in his 17 minutes off the bench.
"We blew it in that fourth quarter," said Floyd, who led the Warriors with 21 points and had 13 assists. "We missed some easy shots and had some key turnovers."
Said Karl: "I think someday we'll win on this floor."