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The NBA : With One Turnover in 40 Minutes, Lakers Had Quite a Streak Going

January 05, 1988|Gordon Edes

With 5 minutes 50 seconds remaining in the Lakers' recent 117-109 victory over the Utah Jazz, James Worthy was called for traveling.

With 1:34 left in the third quarter of the Lakers' next game, against the Philadelphia 76ers, Mychal Thompson was whistled for traveling.

In the interim, a period of 40 minutes 16 seconds of playing time--almost 3 1/2 quarters--the Lakers committed exactly one turnover--when Byron Scott's pass was stolen by Cliff Robinson of the 76ers.

The National Basketball Assn. record for fewest turnovers in a game is four, last achieved by the Dallas Mavericks last season. But to go nearly a full game without a turnover is almost akin to a no-hitter in baseball.

And for a running team such as the Lakers to play such flawless basketball strains belief.

"That's a phenomenal stat," said Pete Newell, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who now scouts for the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Even for a slow team, to play 40 minutes without a turnover is unheard of."

When he coached at California, Newell said, the Bears once committed just one turnover in two games. But that was before the advent of the shot clock.

"It's amazing," he said of the Lakers. "Turnovers aren't just throwing the ball away. You can get them with an offensive foul, a three-second violation, so many judgment things by the referees.

"One thing I've noticed about the Lakers is they don't force too many fast breaks. And they handle the ball at the end of the break better than any team I've ever seen. Most teams make one pass too many. One pass is never too many for them."

And Coach Pat Riley lectures them about efficiency?

The next time he does, the Lakers might want to counter with a history lesson. The NBA record for turnovers in a game, 43, was set by the Lakers on Feb. 15, 1974. The starting backcourt was Jim Price and Gail Goodrich. Jerry West was out with a pulled abdominal muscle . . . and Pat Riley was a reserve guard.

Amazingly, the Lakers won that game, beating the Seattle SuperSonics, 112-96.

Bill Russell's refusal to call a timeout while the Sacramento Kings were disintegrating against the Lakers in a recent game did not go unnoticed by King officials.

"I would have called time out, but then, I'm not the coach," team President Joe Axelson told Jim Lefko of the San Antonio Light. "I would have called eight timeouts.

"I did talk to Bill about it afterward. He has a theory (that) if they're coached right, you can send in plays without calling timeouts. Bill's just not a quick caller of timeouts."

He's obviously not a miracle worker, either. The Kings, who were 29-53 last season, are 8-21 this season in the first year of Russell's seven-year contract with the team. That deal stipulates that he will eventually become president of the club and possibly part-owner.

"Either he's fully committed to getting the team to be competitive and win, say, 35 games, or he's thumbing his nose at the Establishment which, as the evidence mounts up, may be closer to the truth," Bob Cousy, Russell's ex-Celtic teammate and TV analyst, told Peter May of the Hartford Courant.

"I don't know which it is and nobody knows but him. But he is a talented guy, and if he puts his mind to it, there's no doubt he could do it. But he will take the path of least resistance. You can be sure Russ won't worry about it."

What ever became of the late, great Atlantic Division? Only the Boston Celtics have a winning record. Philadelphia made a West Coast swing and lost five straight, the Washington Bullets fired Coach Kevin Loughery, and the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets deserve each other.

In the Central Division, meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons are both on a pace to win 60 games. If they do, they will be the first divisional rivals since the Celtics and 76ers finished tied at 62-20 in 1980-81.

Don't expect the Bullets' problems to end, by the way, just because they replaced Loughery with Wes Unseld. Talking about the friction that exists among the players on the team, one player told Anthony Cotton of the Washington Post: "They may like each other, they may even be friends, but I don't think they really respect each other."

There was fallout from Charles Barkley's outburst that followed the 76ers' 131-115 beating at the hands of the Lakers last week. That's when Barkley said: "We're a bad team, man. The whole . . . team."

When the 76ers got to Portland, Barkley announced that he wasn't talking.

"I have nothing to say, man, I have nothing to say," he told reporters. "I'm on vacation from the press for a while. Just write down the stats. That should be good enough."

Jim Lynam, the 76ers' assistant coach, told David Kahn of the Portland Oregonian: "Did he say something wrong? Yeah, but the setting--and I was there for a part of it--was this: It was at the end of a lengthy session with the media, and after a frustrating game for all of us. I don't attach any significance to it."

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