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Lakers Are Just About Perfect in Rout of Portland, 142-115

November 18, 1987|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

The boffo notices are becoming a nightly affair. Mike Tyson doesn't lose a fight, Bill Murray doesn't tell a bad joke, and the Lakers don't lose basketball games.

Check the back of your sports section this morning, and you'll see that the Lakers stand alone at the top of the standings as the only unbeaten team in the National Basketball Assn.

Mike Schuler, the human squawkbox who coaches the Portland Trail Blazers, won't bother to read the fine print, however. He could see the big picture just fine Tuesday night, when the Lakers hammered the Trail Blazers, 142-115, at the Forum before a crowd of 16,347 that included a certain comedian and a certain boxer.

The Lakers' most one-sided win of the season ran their record to 7-0, a game better than the Boston Celtics, who lost Larry Bird (sprained ankles) and then the game to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"They're playing at such a high level right now," Schuler said of the Lakers, who got 63 points from their bench--including 24 from Mychal Thompson in addition to the 21 points by James Worthy and 20 by Byron Scott, 15 of which came in the third quarter.

"They've become the most unselfish team in the NBA, and the best passing team in the NBA," Schuler said.

"When I was in Milwaukee (as an assistant to Don Nelson), I used to think Boston was, but now it's the Lakers. I see where they can take wide-open 15-foot jumpers and instead throw it in to a guy for a four-foot shot. That takes a special type of player.

"It's evident that they're on a mission."

Whoa. The way Schuler was carrying on, it occurred to somebody that maybe he was just trying to soften the Lakers for their next meeting against Portland two weeks from now.

"No," Schuler said with a scoff. "That's just the way it is.

"They've been together for so long, they play together so well, they're a scary team. They've got such a blend of size and quickness, and their defense doesn't get the credit it deserves. . . . I sat under the basket and watched them play San Antonio, and I was just amazed."

There isn't anybody else in the league that compares right now, Schuler said. Can that continue?

"Why not?" he said. "They've got something to prove, don't they?"

He was referring, of course, to the Lakers' chance to be the first team since 1968-69 to repeat as NBA champions.

"They're the only team in the NBA to have that opportunity, and judging by the way they've been challenged, I think they want to beat the odds."

Figure the odds on this: Thompson and Kurt Rambis both firing away from 20-foot range and getting nothing but net.

"Hey, me and Kurt are secretly the best outside shooters on the team," said Thompson, who played 30 minutes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 12 and had 6 points and 3 assists in addition to his game-high point total.

"Byron and Coop (Michael Cooper) might beg to differ, but me and Rambo know what the deal is."

Rambis, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds--matching A.C. Green for game-high honors--said Thompson had it all wrong.

"It's not a secret, it's a known fact," Rambis said. "I just pulled out the high-percentage, 20-foot jumper . . . I just pretended I was in the Santa Clara gym, firing at will."

Scott started out Tuesday's game misfiring--he had just five points on 2-of-8 shooting at the half--but then caught fire after the break.

It started with a 20-footer from the left side, included a 25-foot three-pointer, a driving layup that went in even though he was knocked to the floor, and a break-away, one-handed jam off a Thompson outlet pass that closed out the Laker scoring in the quarter.

At that point, the lead was 98-79, and then the reserves kept pouring it on. Milt Wagner had nine points and three assists, Wes Matthews made all four of his shots, and of course, those top gunners, Thompson and Rambis.

Magic Johnson--he had just nine points, but passed out a season-high 14 assists, stole the ball four times and grabbed seven rebounds--took it all in from the bench.

Afterward, he took in what Schuler said, and noted it's something that all the Lakers have heard before.

"I'd rather the praises come after the season than right now," Johnson said. "If you read it, you can get caught up in it.

"Before, we couldn't handle it, but now we're mature enough. Before we thought we were a great team, we thought we were big stuff, and that hurt us three times.

"The last time (in 1985-86) we started out 24-3, and we heard we were the greatest team ever. We read it, believed it and got caught."

Johnson claims the Lakers know better than to believe they're invincible on the court. Off the court, however, at least one Laker was willing to take on all comers--including Tyson, a postgame visitor to the dressing room.

"I'll slap him," said Thompson, who regularly holds mock sparring sessions with Scott. "Where's that little wimp?"

Rambis, however, showed a little more respect.

"Somebody said (Tyson) was dwarfed by everybody in here," Rambis said of the 5-foot 10-inch fighter, "but even the biggest man in the world will smile lying down."

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