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Lakers Accomplish Third of Their Four Goals : By Beating Clippers, 135-112, They Clinch Home-Court Advantage in Playoffs

April 07, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers had four goals when they went to training camp last October.

They wanted to win the Pacific Division title and finish with the best record in the Western Conference. They also wanted to finish with the best record in the National Basketball Assn. and thus earn the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Their final goal was winning the NBA title.

Well, the Lakers have accomplished the first three.

They crushed the Clippers, 135-112, Monday night at the Forum to assure themselves of the home advantage in the playoffs.

"This is what we set out to do. Now we have to take advantage of the advantage, otherwise it means nothing," forward Kurt Rambis said.

The Lakers (61-15), who have six games left in the regular season, clinched at least a tie for the best record in the NBA with the Boston Celtics (55-21). However, even if the Lakers lose all their remaining games and the Celtics are unbeaten in their remaining games, the Lakers will have the home-court advantage because they swept the two-game season series from Boston.

"It (clinching the best record) means a lot because we've never done it before," Magic Johnson said. "When we get a chance to sit down and evaluate it, it will mean more.

"But we've got to keep going from here. We've accomplished three of our goals--winning the division, winning the West and the best record, but the biggest one of all is coming up--the final."

Johnson had 15 points, 16 assists and 6 rebounds in just 28 minutes Monday night. He moved into seventh place on the all-time NBA assist list, passing former Celtic John Havlicek.

"Any time you pass anyone on that list it means a lot," Johnson said. "But everything I've accomplished this season is secondary to what we want to accomplish, winning the NBA (title)."

Laker Coach Pat Riley said his team won't slow down in the final two weeks of the regular season. "We've got to keep playing not to lose the edge," Riley said. "We've had a history of waiting for the playoffs. But if you try to avoid injury in a game like tonight, that's when you end up getting hurt.

"We want to continue to improve on it. We could possibly have the third-best record in the history of the NBA. They (the players) aren't going to hear the word rest from me.

"In the past, the home court has made no difference. But this season I think we have a good attitude here at home. But if you're going to win it all, you've got to deal with the fans, writers and media, all those peripheral opponents."

James Worthy led the Lakers with 20 points, including 16 in the first half.

A.C. Green had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 15 points and 6 rebounds.

The Laker starters sat out the fourth period after the Lakers had built up a 30-point lead by the end of the third period.

Rory White led the Clippers with 20 points and Earl Cureton added 19 points and 12 rebounds.

"I thought it wasn't a total blowout," Clipper Coach Don Chaney said. "I wouldn't call this a blowout because we were shorthanded. I think Pat Riley showed a little mercy when he took his starters out. I've seen some coaches try to bury you."

The Clippers had just nine players in uniform for the game, including eight who were healthy.

Center Benoit Benjamin (bronchitis), forward Michael Cage (back bruise), guard Mike Woodson (sore left ankle) and forward Kenny Fields (calf) sat out the game with injuries.

It was the second consecutive game that Benjamin, the Clippers' enigmatic 7-foot center, had missed.

And Clipper guard Quintin Dailey's wife Angela, who is pregnant with their first child, went into labor Monday afternoon. It turned out to be a false alarm, however.

"I had to be here," Dailey said. "We only have eight players. I don't want a forfeit."

As it turned out, the result wasn't much different.

Notes

Laker rookie Billy Thompson was fined for missing the team bus for Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets. "I missed the bus because I forgot to set my watch ahead one hour," Thompson said. Thompson was also late for a practice last week. Said Laker Coach Pat Riley: "It's no big deal. Guys get fined all the time." . . . The Clippers play the Houston Rockets tonight at the Sports Arena. The Lakers are off until Thursday's rematch against the Clippers at the Sports Arena.

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