PORTLAND, Ore. — The Lakers may not believe this, but once in a while Pat Riley lets on that he knows his carping for perfection sounds a little ridiculous at times.
"We win 10 in a row and the coach isn't happy, right?" Riley said with a bemused smile Sunday night after itemizing his complaints with the Lakers' 98-81 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
If Riley wasn't happy, where did that leave Portland Coach Mike Schuler, whose team unloaded enough bricks Sunday night to build a new wing on Pickfair?
The Trail Blazers, who were missing starting forward Kiki Vandeweghe and starting center Steve Johnson with injuries, made only 27 baskets while shooting only 28.4%, both franchise lows. They went 4:38 of the second quarter without scoring and a 6:53 stretch that carried through halftime without scoring a basket.
Richard Anderson, a former UC Santa Barbara player and one-time Clipper (San Diego edition), missed all 11 of his shots, the worst shooting night of any player in the league this season, and also had a teammate's basket taken away when he committed offensive goaltending.
Michael Holton came off the bench to send up seven misguided missiles in as many attempts, while even Clyde Drexler, the Trail Blazers' leading scorer, followed up a sizzling 15-point first quarter by making just 2 of his last 11 shots.
Byron Scott by himself had almost half as many baskets as the entire Portland team, hitting 9 of 11 shots in a 20-point first half before eventually cooling off to a game-high 31 points, his second straight 30-plus night and third this season.
"Obviously, we caught them without a post game," Riley said, alluding to the absence of Vandeweghe and Johnson. "We caught them down, we caught them cold, and the ball didn't drop for them."
So, what was Riley's beef with the Lakers, who ran off a 15-0 streak in a 31-16 second quarter to break open the game, and also refused to bite at the baiting of ex-teammate Maurice Lucas?
"I'm not satisfied," Riley said. "Even with the number of shots missed by Portland, our fast-break efficiency is almost nonexistent.
"I'm not unhappy with the wins--I'm happy as hell--but we've got to play with more efficiency. We've got to have a killer instinct. Right now, we're in between being a running team and a setup team, and you can't be both."
Run those remarks past Magic Johnson, and the Laker guard rolls his eyes.
"I don't know what it's going to take to please him," said Johnson, who had 11 points and 9 assists while watching the fourth quarter from the bench alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"But the guys and myself aren't going to minimize what we're doing. We're not turning the ball over, we're outrebounding the other guys, what else does he want us to do?
"We're shooting the ball well, we're playing good defense--it's up to him how he sees it, but we as guys know we're playing better than we did 10 games ago."
Johnson shook his head and laughed.
"You all know him," he said to reporters. "He always wants more. But it takes time to get more."
Lucas looked like he wanted something, too, when he bumped bodies with Johnson, gave referee Dick Bavetta a shove, and pointed fingers at Johnson, who pointed right back late in the second quarter.
"He wanted to try and intimidate me," Johnson said of Lucas, who drew a technical foul for his actions. "And I told him I wasn't going for it.
"He told me what he was going to do to me, and I said, 'I'm standing right here, do what you want.'
"We know Luke."
Scott, after making one of his three three-pointers, also pointed at Lucas and shouted at him as the Trail Blazers returned to their bench during the third quarter.
Scott claimed that Lucas had nailed him with an elbow on Portland's previous possession. It was a dirty play, Scott said, and he was just telling Lucas so.
"We know how Luke is and every time he plays against us he tries to intimidate us," Scott said. "But he doesn't intimidate anyone on this team. It just gets us worked up and we play harder."
Lucas was in the Portland dressing room with his back to the door when he turned and encountered a small cluster of reporters. He broke out laughing.
"What are you guys doing, following me?" he said. "I turn around and I see all these white guys chasing me."
Lucas said he was just trying to alter the atmosphere in the second quarter.
"I could see the game was slipping away, and I wanted to shoot some fire into my teammates," he said. "It worked for about four or five minutes, but we couldn't carry it through."
He said he talked to Scott afterward. "Nothing there," he said.
Besides, he said, he hadn't even heard Scott barking at him.
"My back was turned," Lucas said with a wink.
That's how the Trail Blazers seemed to be approaching the basket all night, with backs turned. No one more so than Anderson, who just two nights before had scored a season-high 22 points against Philadelphia.
"It just wasn't working for him," Lucas said. "That's the thing about this game, it'll keep you humble. He couldn't have thrown a pea into the ocean tonight."
Kiki Vandeweghe took part in pregame warm-ups but missed his third straight game because of soreness in his lower back. He has missed 15 games this season. Steve Johnson has pain in both his ankles and knees and has said he will need surgery for bone spurs after the season. . . . Michael Cooper had a shooting night right out of Portland's book: He missed all seven of his shots and finished with two points. . . . Byron Scott, in addition to his 31 points, had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. . . .The Lakers, after committing just six turnovers against Utah a week ago Saturday and two in three quarters against Philadelphia last Tuesday, committed 24 Sunday. . . . The Lakers did outrebound Portland, but only 63-61.