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Laker Goal Is Perfect Game 3 : Western Conference: If L.A. doesn't achieve it tonight against Portland, there won't be a Game 4.

April 29, 1992|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It looks bleak for the Lakers, going into tonight's Game 3 at the Forum, trailing 2-0, but a journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step.

Of course, so does your vacation.

Outscored by 35 points and outrebounded by 37 thus far, the Lakers have yet to be competitive with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers played one good quarter in Game 2 but missed shots they needed to make, and there went the neighborhood.

"That's not playing the perfect game--and that's basically what we have to do," Coach Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday.

"All the good opportunities we get, we have to convert on. And then we've got to do the job on the boards. Until we do that, we're not going to have a chance."

Even if perfection is unattainable, Dunleavy remembers games during which the Lakers executed everything asked of them. If they reach that level tonight, he would take his chances.

What the heck, he would have to, based on:

Dec. 17, 1991--Lakers 102, Bulls 89 at Chicago. Everything Dunleavy couldn't try in the '91 NBA finals because of James Worthy's sore knee, works in a huge upset, even without Magic Johnson and Vlade Divac. The Lakers hold the Bulls to 41% shooting from the field and outrebound them, 49-37.

Feb. 26, 1992--Lakers 81, Knicks 68. Dunleavy thinks defense first, and there's no beating this game, in which the Lakers hold Patrick Ewing to eight points, shooting four for 18. New York shoots 35% and scores its franchise low since the advent of the 24-second clock. The Lakers outrebound the Knicks, 50-42.

March 27, 1992--Lakers 103, Jazz 92 at Salt Lake City. Talk about needing a perfect game: The Lakers have just lost Worthy and Sam Perkins and are in the Delta Center, where the Jazz is 31-3. The Lakers surprise them by leading, 75-73, after three quarters. They hold the Jazz to 19 in the fourth quarter and win going away. They hold the Jazz to a 41-37 rebounding margin.

In the playoffs, there is no getting away from physical play . . . and talk about physical play.

The Trail Blazers have dominated, leaving the Lakers to figure out what they can do about it.

Dunleavy showed all his players game tape of them being shoved this way and that.

If push again fails to come to shove, he might unleash the irrepressible Jack Haley. Haley's fitness for the task can be inferred from his never-to-be-forgotten New Jersey Net streak of eight games with a flagrant foul.

"David Stern and Rod Thorn called me into the office," Haley says, laughing. "They had a videotape of each one. I had to explain each one. 'Cause, to me, none of them were flagrant. They told me, enough is enough. I went four games until I had another one."

Would he make a difference against the Trail Blazers?

"No question. That's what I do. I don't think I'll score a lot of points or anything, but what I can bring to the team is an intense, competitive nature on the floor. When I'm on the floor, there will be no layups, there will be no pushing and shoving around.

"I'm the emotional leader of our team, even though I don't play a lot of minutes. . . . I think the difference between me and the other players on our team, I'm not going anywhere if anything wants to erupt or if someone wants to push or shove me. I'd be more apt to retaliate rather than just yell at the referee."

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