PORTLAND, Ore. — Nine years later, the fat lady tuned up, but the old owners of the Pacific Division bade her wait just a little longer.
She endured a chilling third quarter while the old guys rallied to rub out a 20-point deficit.
She got out the sheet music in the fourth quarter while the Lakers accumulated technical fouls.
But she didn't get her cue until Clyde Drexler's fall-away 17-footer with 15 seconds left Saturday stamped out the last resistance, giving the Trail Blazers a 118-113 victory and the first Pacific Division title anyone but the Lakers has won since 1982.
OK, Brunhilde, sing your pigtails off.
"We won the division last year and got knocked off in the second round," said Byron Scott, who had never known a second-place finish. "There's still another season. It's like they say: Sometimes good things come to an end. Nine years in a row, I think that's a heck of an accomplishment."
Translation: Division titles are nice, but in eight weeks, who will remember?
Thus the Lakers fought bitterly, raged at the referees, saw Magic Johnson and Mike Dunleavy called for technicals, each for only the second time this season . . . but left the floor coolly. Johnson and Scott were even laughing, talking over their miscommunication on a key pass while the Memorial Coliseum crowd went bonkers.
"I'm not upset at all," Johnson said. "You've got to give them (the Trail Blazers) credit for what they did. Also, I give this team credit for what we did and where we came from. It's all right."
The first half--Portland 65, Los Angeles 49--was your basic Laker train wreck.
"They just manhandled us, threw us all over," Dunleavy said. "They had all the rebounds. Shot 59%. Everything they shot was in rhythm. They weren't worried about the shots they were taking. We can't have that."
These teams don't look much alike. The Trail Blazers are bigger, more physical, deeper, younger, more anonymous and several NBA championships behind the Lakers, yet their fates still seem bound together.
Did Portland rub out a 21-point deficit in an astonishing 7:21 of the third quarter at the Forum two weeks ago?
The Lakers rubbed out a 20-point lead in 7:59 of the third quarter Saturday. Scott went from hot to smoking to glowing to unreal, hitting eight of nine shots including three three-pointers for a very fast 19 points.
Los Angeles got to within 114-111 with possession of the ball in the last :37 when:
--Johnson threw a length-of-the-court baseball pass too long for Scott, who was behind the defense.
Johnson rarely throws that pass away, but this one made the seats.
"He thought I didn't see him," Johnson said. "He sprinted and stopped. When I threw it, he said, 'Uh oh.' "
--Drexler hit his fall-away 17-footer.
"We played him as well as we could play him and he hit it," Johnson said. "You don't let him drive and he hits the fall-away. That happens."
So the Lakers finished second.
That happens, too.
Final days of the Oscar Robertson watch: Magic Johnson got 15 assists and needs nine to break the all-time assist record of 9,887. His average is 12.6 so he should get it Monday night in the Forum against Dallas. "Oh yeah, this is it," said Johnson, who wants to do it at home. "I'm getting nine assists Monday." . . . Sam Perkins scored 32 points, his Laker high. He took 10 rebounds, his fourth game in five with double-figure rebounds. . . . Mike Dunleavy says he will rest his regulars in the last four games. Johnson says he hopes Dunleavy will give rookie Elden Campbell a look. . . . Byron Scott on his sore hamstring: "It's not that big of a concern. It's something that's been tender the last week and a half or so. If I was seriously concerned, I'd sit out a game."