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1987 NBA PLAYOFFS : LAKERS VS. WARRIORS : Can Sleepy Make 'Em Dopey, Too?

May 12, 1987|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

Before the Lakers and Golden State Warriors resume their National Basketball Assn. playoff series tonight at the Forum, a few questions should be answered.

--Why didn't the Lakers arrange for Eric (Sleepy) Floyd to miss the Warriors' flight to Los Angeles, just as he did before the Warriors flew to Salt Lake City for the first round of the playoffs?

--Because he's here, does that mean Floyd will be given license to drive through the Laker defense like a Ferrari on the San Diego Freeway at 4 a.m.? Or will he feel like just another car waiting to pull into the Forum parking lot on game night?

--Did Laker guard Michael Cooper have his ego massaged at the same Beverly Hills salon that made its latest fashion statement by shaving Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's head? And is Cooper still wondering how someone 7-foot-2 inches tall could disappear whenever Floyd was in the neighborhood?

--Will Chick Hearn high-five his Laker broadcasting partner, Keith Erickson, if Golden State play-by-play man Greg Papa mispronounces a name? And will the Laker girls taunt Warrior guard Chris Mullin because his legs aren't as tanned as theirs?

--Will Golden State Coach George Karl, who ridiculed the "Chanel No. 5 smell" of the Forum, reveal the name of the after-shave he plans to wear in San Francisco's Cow Palace if there's a Game 6 Thursday?

--Is there any Warrior who will say of Magic Johnson, "He reminded me of me," which was Magic's reaction to Floyd on Sunday?

For both teams, there was plenty of time to reflect on these and other questions Monday, the day after Floyd's 51-point spectacular unexpectedly extended a series that only Coach Doug Moe of the Denver Nuggets had appreciated--three straight one-sided Laker wins.

The Lakers gathered at the Forum for less than an hour Monday to watch the tape of Floyd's record-setting performance. They did not practice after back-to-back games, although a handful of players hung around to shoot.

Karl also called off practice for the Warriors, who arrived here late Monday afternoon. With the Lakers ahead by 14 points after three quarters Sunday, few people expected to see the Warriors back here, unless it was to vacation at Disneyland.

Sleepy, however, had other plans.

"From the standpoint of keeping his team alive, Sleepy's game goes down in history as the best," Laker Coach Pat Riley said.

"I know Michael Jordan scored 63 points against Boston last season, but Sleepy brought his team back from the brink of elimination."

Some of those who watched him score at will Sunday may be wondering where Floyd has been the rest of the series. After all, he came into the game averaging a little fewer than 15 points a game. Sunday, Floyd scored 15 points in the first 3:53 of the fourth quarter.

The answer is three-fold:

--A strained left hamstring.

--Cooper.

--No help from the bench.

"He hasn't had a lot of relief, " Riley said of Floyd, who is averaging more minutes (40.5) than any player on either team.

"Playing 40-plus minutes, 16 straight minutes at a time, has had an effect on him.

"But he proved yesterday that he's a great athlete. He had a tremendous amount of energy . . . energy that came from the Lakers."

Which introduces what has become the No. 1 subplot of this televised miniseries: The alleged Laker arrogance awakening the Warriors, especially Sleepy.

"If you don't have humility," Riley said, "you're going to be humbled. And at times, we got carried away."

But Riley insisted that the Lakers aren't alone in their behavior, which has included a regular diet of taunting, posturing, and in-your-face gamesmanship.

Take a look at the other ongoing NBA playoff series--Houston-Seattle, Detroit-Atlanta, and to a lesser degree, Boston-Milwaukee--and you'll see the same things going on, Riley said.

"It's a character trait of the modern-day player that wasn't there 10 or 15 years ago," Riley said. "A street-game mentality. And it's not going to stop."

It's merely a manifestation of the inner games being played within a game, Riley said. And it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"That's part of their greatness, part of this league. They're going to take it right at you.

" . . . Half of the players in this league are instinctual, they're attackers, they'll take it right to you.

"Larry Bird is one of the best in the league at it. Nobody ever knows, but he talks all the time to people. You just don't see the displays.

"He says it with a look of the eye, the right word, a tone of voice."

The danger, Riley said, is when it gets out of hand.

"What they have to understand," Riley said of his players, "is the fine line of their actions."

Is it possible that Floyd could go off on the Lakers again like he did Sunday? Michael Jordan of the Bulls, for example, scored 49 points against the Celtics and followed that with an even more spectacular 63-point encore.

"Sure he could," Riley said, "if we don't execute our game plan. What we want to do is force the point of attack and help out.

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