'Twas two nights before Christmas, and all through the Forum, not a Sacramento King was stirring, and Coach Bill Russell was snorin'.
In truth, the coach of the Kings said he was only too awake during Sacramento's 34th straight loss here to the Lakers, 117-103.
But his decision not to call a time out while the Lakers snowballed on a 29-6 second-quarter run may have greased the skids for some tough sledding for the Kings, who haven't won here since 1974.
Sacramento actually led, 41-33, four minutes into the second quarter before Magic Johnson scorched the Kings with 16 points in the period, and the Laker trapping defense unraveled the Kings like a cheap sweater.
"The world came to an end," Russell said, "and we just didn't do anything right."
But while they were doing everything wrong, the Hall of Fame member in his first season as Sacramento coach remained anchored to his chair. Why didn't he call a timeout to call a halt to the ugly proceedings?
"I didn't think at the time it would (help)," he said. "Sometimes when you call time out, it helps the other team as much as your team, maybe more.
"I was calling plays from the sideline, calling defenses."
Something obviously was lost in the translation.
"I probably called the wrong plays, how's that?" Russell said with a wry laugh.
From the time the Lakers kicked into a higher gear and the time Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made their departure with 1:30 left in the third quarter, the Lakers outscored the Kings, 57-22.
Russell could have called time outs from now until Easter, Johnson said, and it wouldn't have made a difference, the way the Lakers were playing.
"It's like when Portland did the same thing to us," said Johnson, who finished with 26 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds. "It doesn't matter how many timeouts Riley called, they were just playing.
"He (Russell) was coaching. He was hollering out plays to (Kenny) Smith, telling them to swing the ball, reverse it.
"He was in it. Maybe you just didn't hear him. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do."
That feeling is nothing new to King guard Reggie Theus, whose 12 first-quarter points kept Sacramento in the game early. Did Theus think it might have been a good idea to go to the sidelines and regroup?
"For me to say that would be to second-guess the coach," Theus said, "and I'm not that smart."
Theus was smart enough to tell that this game--like every other game he has played here as a King--was getting away from Sacramento.
"I think we took some shots we shouldn't have taken and missed some shots we should have made," Theus said. "And that blew the game open. Most of the time when you miss shots, that's when the Lakers get their break going."
The Lakers also contributed to the Kings' sorry shooting--40.4%--by blocking 11 shots, 3 by Mychal Thompson, who also had 9 rebounds in 22 minutes.
"We're playing better as a team now," said Thompson, comparing this streak to the eight-game streak the Lakers opened the season with.
"We're really doing the things now that win games."
And that includes the bench crew, which got 11 points and a team-high 9 assists from Michael Cooper and 9 points from newcomer Ray Tolbert.
"We're playing kamikaze basketball," Thompson said of the reserves. "Helter-skelter. . . which all means we're playing hard and working together."
Laker Notes Michael Cooper's wife, Wanda, was in an automobile accident Wednesday and hurt her neck, Cooper said. The Laker guard said his wife, who was alone in the car at the time, may have to be hospitalized. . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had been held to fewer than 10 points in two of the last three games, had 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. . . . Kurt Rambis, who didn't play at all Sunday and only six minutes the night before against the Clippers, played just eight minutes Wednesday, the fewest minutes of the 12 Lakers who played. . . . James Worthy started but had just 7 points (2 of 7 from the floor) in 23 minutes. . . . The Lakers fly to Utah on Christmas afternoon for a game against the Jazz on Saturday.