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Rambis Rampage Helps the Lakers Win 11th in a Row

January 05, 1988|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

Magic Johnson pushed his way through the crowd of reporters to his cubicle in the Laker dressing room.

"Excuse me, fellas," he said. "I know you all love Kurt, but I'd like to get to my locker and my ice bucket.

"You know, Kurt," Johnson said to Kurt Rambis, the night's media magnet, "you going to play like this, you can't sit beside me no more."

Rambis didn't miss a beat.

"I've been telling you that for seven years," he said.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, "Rambo III" arrived ahead of schedule Monday night at the Forum, right smack in the middle of the Lakers' 133-115 win over the San Antonio Spurs, their 11th win in a row.

And it had all the action of its predecessors, the kind that once made Rambis such a Forum favorite, but recently has been seen only on vintage highlight films.

Wham! There goes Rambis, bowling into the not-so-cheap seats, knocking people off their wallets in pursuit of a loose ball.

Bam! Rambis again, taking an ungodly shot but careening after his own rebound, falling to the floor and passing to Michael Cooper for an easy basket.

Pow! Rambis stealing the ball in the backcourt two straight times, jamming the ball after the first steal.

Crash! Rambis taking a behind-the-back pass from Milt Wagner and dunking off the break and taking a drop pass from A.C. Green to jam on another break.

This game may have been decided long before by the 23 points of James Worthy, the 21 of Byron Scott, the 14 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds by Magic Johnson, and the 17 points and 7 rebounds of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but it was Rambis who got the standing ovation when the teams left the court.

"That's the Kurt Rambis that everyone remembers," said Laker assistant coach Bill Bertka, the leader of the "blue team," as the Laker reserves are known.

"And that's the kind of play that's vital to this team."

It's also the kind of play that has seldom been seen this season from Rambis, whose enthusiasm appeared to be waning in step with his playing time.

"It's been very difficult for him," said Laker Coach Pat Riley, who mentioned having a chat with Rambis last week. "I understand his situation. He's gone from a front-line player to a rotation-player to a spot player, and he's had a real hard time."

Ask Rambis if he's the same player that he was a year or two ago, and he nods.

"I'm a little bit better looking," he said, "but otherwise I'm the same player."

It's only been lately, though, Riley said, that he has shown he has accepted his role.

"You've seen in the last three games him bringing more fire, more passion and more impact in his game than you've seen all season long," Riley said.

Rambis acknowledged that it hasn't been easy.

"There's a negative side to everything, and a positive side," he said. "On the negative side, you get down and frustrated about playing time."

On the upside, Johnson said, is the galvanizing effect Rambis has when he's the Rambo of old.

"The rebounds, the hustle plays, he's the best at that," Magic said. "You saw it come back tonight. He was all over the place. Two or three guys go for a loose ball, and Kurt comes up with it. That's the Kurt I know."

On one play, Rambis threw a pass that bounced off Wes Matthews' shin and came right back to him for an easy jumper.

"The fans love him, we love him," said Matthews, who drew a crowd reaction of his own--not to mention some seismic tremors in Reykjavik--when he threw down a one-handed jam over 7-foot Petur Gudmundsson.

"The offensive rebounds, the loose balls, he must have dove five or six times--he was a little mop out there," Matthews said.

"It may have been garbage time, but it was fun time for us."

Laker Notes

Michael Cooper, 0 for 7 Sunday night at Portland, turned around and made all 6 of his shots Monday, including 3 three-pointers. Cooper finished with 15 points. . . . Magic Johnson continued to show he has an inexhaustible supply of passes, feeding Mychal Thompson under the basket while looking at the other basket. "It's hard to describe how I saw him, but I saw him," he said. "I have no eyes back there." . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was credited with three blocked shots, including one in which he stuck his arm up the basket and knocked away a jam attempt by Walter Berry. . . . Alvin Robertson had 20 points and 11 assists for the Spurs. . . . The Lakers shot a season-best 59.3%, making 54 of 91 shots. . . . A.C. Green and Byron Scott had four steals apiece. . . . The Lakers outrebounded San Antonio, 48-29.

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