As finishing kicks go, this ranks right up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's brief career as Bruce Lee's sidekick in kung-fu flicks.
Wednesday night at the Forum, the Lakers laid out the Dallas Mavericks, 103-89, and ran their winning streak to 12 games--longest in both the Pat Riley and Ray Tolbert eras. In the last 6:43, the Lakers blindsided the Mavericks, 29-7.
James Worthy, who seemingly would have been better off trying to drop-kick the ball into the hoop early on, missed 11 straight shots after making his first basket. But the Laker forward left some giant footprints on the Mavericks with a 13-point fourth quarter while applying a defensive stranglehold on Dallas' Mark Aguirre.
"I figured I stunk up the gym enough; I had to continue to do my job and not get down on myself," said Worthy, who got down after stealing a pass from Roy Tarpley and rumbling in for a breakaway slam dunk that cut the Dallas lead to 78-72 with 8:12 to play.
The Mavericks still led, 82-74, after a 19-footer by Brad Davis, but they scored just two baskets the rest of the way. The Mavericks, who commit fewer turnovers than any team in the league, gave the ball away seven times down the stretch. Twice, Worthy drew Aguirre into committing offensive fouls while jockeying for position.
"This is the first time all year we lost our poise," said John MacLeod, who in his first season as coach has the Mavericks in first place in the Midwest Division.
"We just weren't able to keep control of things."
Once the Lakers dug in on defense, their offense went back on automatic pilot. It made up for a dreadful first-half stretch in which they missed 20 of 25 shots, scored only 16 points in the second quarter and trailed, 56-44, at the break.
"This was a gutsy comeback," said Mychal Thompson, who played the first 7:48 of the fourth quarter instead of Abdul-Jabbar and didn't come out until the Lakers had taken an 85-82 lead. "This was better than anything Gary Hart could come up with."
The Mavericks, who had nearly come back from a 27-point deficit in their first visit to the Forum, were hard-pressed to explain why they unraveled Wednesday.
"You saw what happened," said Dallas guard Derek Harper, who had punctuated a third-quarter verbal exchange with Laker guard Michael Cooper by pointing at the scoreboard. The Mavericks were ahead by six at the time, but he could only point a finger at himself and his teammates when it was over.
"You knew that sooner or later the Lakers were going to get on a run. They got the ball out on the break for some easy baskets and also got a lot of offensive rebounds late in the game."
Worthy, who finished with 17 points, wasn't the only Laker to come to life in the final quarter. Byron Scott, who had a team-leading 28 points, buried a three-pointer with 1:20 left that gave the Lakers an insurmountable 96-87 lead.
And Abdul-Jabbar, who had 21 points (on 10-of-14 shooting) and 8 rebounds, had 6 points after his return in the final period--including an alley-oop jam off a feed from Johnson, followed by a 17-foot jumper, one of two outside shots the Laker center made in the game.
Sam Perkins, the Maverick forward whose defense had helped to frustrate Worthy for three quarters, wasn't surprised that Worthy finally became unleashed at the end. Perkins, who like Worthy is a North Carolina alumnus, has played against him in numerous summer pickup games.
"Sometimes I think I've contained him," Perkins said. "But after one play where he swoops by me to the hoop, it all seems negated."