SACRAMENTO — er options were running as short as the clock with 35 seconds left and the Sacramento Kings holding a three-point lead in the Arco Arena Tuesday night.
James Worthy was back in Los Angeles with a sore left knee, Michael Cooper's right shoulder was hanging lifeless at his side, and a frenzied sellout crowd of 10,333 was primed to praise new Coach Bill Russell for ending a 25-game losing streak against the Lakers on his first try.
But in the huddle of Lakers around Pat Riley during a time out with Sacramento holding a 109-106 lead, Magic Johnson was having different thoughts. While Riley was designing a play on his clipboard, Johnson was crafting a design of his own making.
Johnson's plan worked as well on the court as it did in his mind. He took the in-bounds pass, dribbled down, and when Sacramento forward Ed Pinckney backed away, calmly drilled a three-point shot--only the second he's made in 10 attempts this season--with 29 seconds to go.
That tied the score, 109-109, Cooper somehow managed to prevent Sacramento sharpshooter Reggie Theus from firing an answering salvo, and the Lakers pulled away in overtime to win, 125-120.
"Earvin stepped right into it with that three-point shot," Riley said. "He said he was thinking about it for six dribbles."
Cooper refused to think about his shoulder, even though he hurt it with 7:20 to go in regulation when he was fouled by Harold Pressley, a guy who's had his own aches and pains lately. Pressley was wearing a mask to protect his nose, broken twice in the last five weeks.
"Pressley had my shoulder up over my head--it was pretty sore, but I had to stay in the game," said Cooper, who has played in 531 consecutive games--including playoffs--and did not leave this one until the end of regulation.
That's when he went to the dressing room for what trainer Gary Vitti called a mild shoulder separation.
Cooper, who has started the last two games in Worthy's absence, will be examined by Dr. Robert Kerlan today in Los Angeles, Vitti said.
"He's too tough," Riley said. "I'll kill him if he gets hurt."
The Lakers would have been done in, of course, if Johnson's shot hadn't dropped, but that was never an option, as far as Magic was concerned.
"I think they thought we were gong to run a play, which we were," Johnson said. "We were going to run a pick and roll with several options, take it to the basket.
"But all the way down, it (the three-pointer) was on my mind."
Johnson was aware that the stat sheet shows the three-pointer isn't a high-percentage shot in his hands.
"My percentage is probably horrendous," he said, "but a lot of them I take are throws made out of desperation. When the game is on the line, I'm about 40%."
When the game is on the line, Magic is usually money in the bank, as reserve guard Wes Matthews was screaming when Johnson's shot dropped through.
"Nothing Magic Johnson does surprises me anymore," said Theus, echoing a familiar refrain. "He is just a great player."
Johnson finished with 26 points, one fewer than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had a season-high 27. Thirteen of those came in the fourth quarter, when he took over the game much as he did here last December, scoring a career-high 46 points in another overtime win.
And it wasn't just his scoring. In the last three minutes, he tied up Theus for a jump ball, which he controlled. Then he combined with Scott to steal the ball from Pressley, one of Sacramento's hot hands in the second half, when they shot better than 60% to come from eight points down in the third period.
Scott threw in 25, and A.C. Green had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers. Otis Thorpe had 31 points for the Kings, while Theus had 27 and ex-Clipper Franklin Edwards had 16 assists, a career high.
The Lakers scored the first six points of overtime and were never headed. The biggest noise the Kings made in overtime was by center Jawann Oldham, who spoiled an otherwise fine night--12 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks--by drawing two technicals. Oldham got one for slamming the ball to the floor after a call he didn't like, and the second for hanging on the rim while Green was putting in a reverse layup.
That earned Oldham an ejection with 14 seconds left.
Theus had given the Kings their 109-106 lead with by shedding Cooper with a spin move that sent the Laker guard to the floor, then hitting a 15-footer just to the left of the free throw line.
But after Johnson scored the tying basket, Cooper blanketed Theus, denying him the pass and forcing him to the top of the key to take the ball out of Edwards' hands. Theus finally shook Cooper for a moment to drive, but Green stepped up and Theus had to kick the ball back out to Edwards.
Thorpe wound up with a baseline jumper that was off, and Abdul-Jabbar grabbed the rebound. The Laker center had a chance to win the game in regulation, but his shot from the free-throw line bounced out.
Laker Notes Wondering why Laker General Manager Jerry West and his assistant, Mitch Kupchak, were in Hawaii last week? Turns out that the Lakers are close to moving their training camp to Hawaii next fall. The plan apparently would include playing a couple of exhibitions there, as well.