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Lakers Unworthy in 131-92 Setback : Pro basketball: Forward sits out game with a sore knee, and team staggers through loss to Trail Blazers.

January 22, 1992|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORTLAND, Ore. — What's missing in this picture?

Almost everything.

James Worthy is out with a sore knee. Magic Johnson is retired. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is getting ready to play Julius Erving one on one. The glory that was Showtime is a memory, as is the heyday of the Laker-Portland rivalry.

The Trail Blazers walked over the leftovers, 131-92, Tuesday night, handing the Lakers their worst defeat of the season.

Nothing--not being overmatched, tired or shorthanded--could diminish Coach Mike Dunleavy's displeasure.

"Granted, we're playing a game without James Worthy, we have no chance maybe to get a win," he said. "But the way we performed--the other guys getting a chance to play--obviously, I'm displeased with that.

"The way we got beat tonight, the things we let happen, I'm embarrassed and hopefully the team is embarrassed."

The Lakers found out at game time that Worthy couldn't go.

This meant Dunleavy would have to improvise. He improvised little-used Chucky Brown into the lineup.

Brown wasn't sharp on his defensive rotations, nor was he alone.

Dunleavy had gone over the game plan in a walk-through just before pregame warm-ups.

Let's just say he didn't have everyone's complete attention.

"Guys are laughing, joking around, shooting the ball when Mike is talking," Byron Scott said. "Maybe it takes something like this to get our attention so we cut the chitter-chatter."

Said Dunleavy: "You've got to be prepared. You might not get two or three days' notice you're going to play. . . . When you get a chance to play, you've got to do something to make the coach take notice. That's life in the NBA, and we didn't get it."

Blazer domination was complete, and after a while, uncontested.

The Lakers threw the ball away on routine exchanges, and, even while getting blown out, ran out the 24-second clock twice without a shot.

The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, worked on their circus plays, like the fast break on which Danny Ainge threw the ball three-quarters of the court--left-handed--to Robert Pack, who threw it blindly back over his head to Alaa Abdelnaby for a dunk.

To show that all constraints were off, Buck Williams tried a 20-footer--and made it.

The Trail Blazers led, 127-86, with 1:35 left after Jack Haley was called for a flagrant foul and Pack, the rookie from USC, made two free throws.

At that point, the Lakers were one point away from their worst loss ever.

That came here in 1990, when Pat Riley rested four regulars, resulting in a 130-88 pounding and a $25,000 fine from the NBA office.

The Trail Blazers, inbounding the ball, got it into Mark Bryant in the low post, but Bryant missed a short turnaround, sparing the Lakers the further embarrassment of setting a record.

"It seemed uncharacteristic of a Laker team," Williams said.

"They've had a lot of adversity this year. After the Magic Johnson situation, they showed a lot of character and played just real solid basketball. I don't know if it wore them down, but they don't seem as cohesive."

To improve on their cohesion, the Lakers will practice today, with everyone listening as silently as a mouse.

Laker Notes

Tuesday's loss ties for the second-worst in Laker history, with the 132-93 loss they suffered to the San Francisco Warriors in November 1972. . . . Nobody said it was going to be easy: Mike Dunleavy, trying to decide which wall to lean against during postgame interviews: "Doesn't matter, it'll probably fall in on me." And Dunleavy, emerging from the postgame buffet with a full plate: "I'm going to try to eat myself to death." And Dunleavy, asked if the team would practice today: "Is the Pope Catholic?" . . . James Worthy's condition is listed as day to day.

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