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Lakers Do a Number, Win by 29 : Clippers, as Usual, Are No Match for Cross-Town Rivals

November 13, 1987|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

So what were you expecting, Van Gogh?

Save your millions, although there were at least 15,569 people at the Forum who shelled out hard cash Thursday night to see the Lakers do a paint-by-the-numbers job on the Clippers, 111-82.

"Ask me anything," Clipper Coach Gene Shue said after watching the artists-in-residence run their record to 4-0 and his own portrait of disarray become 1-3.

OK, Gene, how about this: Wouldn't you rather be doing macrame than watching the Clippers take this kind of tattooing?

"It's a mess," Shue said simply, but of course, he knew that going in.

So, too, did the Lakers, who have now beaten their cross-town rivals--the term is used loosely--18 straight times here, and 17 of 19 times they've met since the Clippers came up the freeway from San Diego to the Sports Arena.

Four minutes into the second period, it was 43-19, and the Laker starters had long since retired to the bench when newcomer Milt Wagner canned a three-pointer to give the Lakers their biggest lead of the night, 108-75.

All you need to know about this game is that Mike Smrek took twice as many shots as Magic Johnson (11 to 5), scored more points (11 to 9) and had more rebounds than A.C. Green (8 to 7).

"I think we worked hard," said James Worthy, who showed no mercy on a fellow North Carolina Tar Heel, rookie Joe Wolf, en route to scoring 20 points in 24 minutes. "It may have looked easy, but it wasn't."

It not only looked easy from press row to the cheap seats, but from the perspective of at least one Clipper, too.

"To tell you the truth, I don't think they played as well as they can," said Clipper guard Quintin Dailey, who scored 17 of the Clippers' total, which matched their low of a season ago.

"They kind of coasted," Dailey added, "after the first quarter."

The Clippers had their moments in the first quarter, even though they were already 11 down at 30-19, by the end of the first dozen minutes. Thereafter, however, they looked like a team with five rookies, a new coach and their one key returnee--Michael Cage--trying to learn a new position (center), even though he only started playing again five days ago.

"We have so many problems offensively," said Shue, who had no choice but to watch a first half in which the Clippers scored just 36 points and shot 34.1% (15 of 44).

"We've got too many players coming in and out, and who don't know the plays. I'm really limited in what I can call. . . . I have not had a chance to get a group together yet to work. It's a little aggravating."

Shue was acquainted enough with losing--remember he inherited the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73--to know that it will turn around some day. The problem is getting there.

"This team will start to look like a cohesive unit a month or two down the road," Shue said.

It has already been a longer week than Clipper rookies Wolf and Reggie Williams--who have known only winners--have ever experienced.

"I don't like to lose," said Williams, who made just 3 of 10 shots and scored 10 points coming off the bench.

"But I know we have to deal with it. The Lakers have known each other for eight or nine years; they know each other's every little move.

"Magic gives 'em the ball. They don't even have to work that hard. Here, we have five rookies, and even the veterans haven't been around long. It's tough."

It may have been toughest on the 6-foot 9-inch Cage, who had just six points and seven rebounds while spotting Abul-Jabbar nearly half a foot.

"It was strange playing Kareem for the first time--I've never guarded him," Cage said. "He's pretty physical. He bumps you and pushes you a lot. I'm looking at him now with a different eye."

Wolf wound up looking at much of this game with a sprained right ankle, which forced him to depart at 10:21 of the second period.

"I think I stepped on somebody's foot and rolled (the ankle) over," said Wolf, who was visited afterward in the Clipper training room by Worthy.

Wolf had played pickup ball with Worthy last summer in North Carolina but knew he would receive no quarter from his celebrated fellow alumnus.

"When you get on the court, Tar Heel or no Tar Heel, he's going to take it to you, and I'm going to take it to him, too," Wolf said.

"He's so quick, you have to try to think ahead of him, but even that is tough."

At this point, Cage doesn't know what to think.

"It's only my fifth day back with the team, and my mind is still getting it together," he said. "And all of a sudden, I'm playing center. There's a lot of things I'm dealing with. It's quite a rush.

"And in my third game, we're playing the Lakers. That leaves me no room."

Before leaving the premises, Shue had a parting thought.

"Anyway," he said, "I'd like to say something nice about the Lakers. They're one helluva team and beautifully coached."

Can anyone visualize the day someone will be saying the same about the Clippers?

"There will be a day," Williams said. "I just don't know when."

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