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It Could Become Special : Pro basketball: Rookie guards Jackson, Peeler begin what may develop into a long-running NBA rivalry in Lakers' 112-99 victory over Mavericks.

April 15, 1993|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DALLAS — The last time they faced each other, Jim Jackson and Anthony Peeler were teen-agers at an AAU basketball championship game in Jonesboro, Ark.

"We started off on the same level," Jackson said, "and we've been keeping the dream alive by finally playing in the NBA. A lot of times you make friends for life, and I think Anthony and I will be friends like that."

The rivalry between the rookie guards lent some sparkle to the Lakers' 112-99 victory over the Mavericks Wednesday at the Reunion Arena. It was only the third victory for the Lakers in their last 15 games.

Jackson, who was the fourth pick in last year's draft but held out until he got a guaranteed six-year, $20-million contract from the Mavericks on March 4, outscored Peeler, 20-11. But Peeler, the 15th pick last June, scored all of his points and set up the key basket in the fourth quarter, propelling the Lakers (36-40) past the persistent Mavericks (8-68).

Peeler's pass from the right wing set up Vlade Divac for an easy layup that gave the Lakers a 104-95 lead with 1:38 to play, deflating the Mavericks and the crowd of 16,064. Dallas, which can still match the NBA record of 9-73 set by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, stayed in the game until then by pummeling the Lakers off the offensive boards, ultimately grabbing 25 offensive rebounds and 52 overall.

"Anthony's going to be a great player. He proved it when he made a key play when they needed it, with that great pass to Vlade down low," said Jackson, who might have been Peeler's teammate if Laker General Manager Jerry West had pulled off the three-way trade with Dallas and Milwaukee he pursued before the Feb. 25 trading deadline.

Peeler also enjoyed the challenge.

"After the game, I told him, 'There's going to be plenty more of these,"' said Peeler, who played 22 minutes while Byron Scott played 26. "Our games are still the same. It was just like we were 15 years old."

Known primarily for his shooting skill, Peeler was praised for the pass to Divac that Coach Randy Pfund called "the game-breaker."

"Anthony is a good passer. I think he's going to be a great player. I really enjoy playing with him," said Divac, who scored 21 points and had a team-high 12 rebounds. "I wasn't surprised. Anthony can make that pass. I saw him and I said, 'I'm in great position,' but I wasn't sure he saw me. As soon as he caught the ball from Sedale, he made the pass."

The Lakers, whose hold on the eighth Western Conference playoff spot grew to 3 1/2 games games over Denver, weren't able to pass the Mavericks as effortlessly.

Taking advantage of the Lakers' weak interior defense, Dallas built a 57-52 lead by halftime despite 40.7% shooting. The Lakers rallied in the third quarter, as Scott hit two jumpers and a three-pointer after missing his first seven shots, and Doug Christie tied it, 78-78, by making one of two free throws before the quarter ended.

"Their record is not an indication of how hard they play," said James Worthy, who scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. "Everybody feels like they have an opportunity to beat the Lakers now, which they never had before."

Jackson, who is averaging 14.1 points and 4.9 assists in 23 games, probably will have more chances to beat Peeler and the Lakers over the years. "I found myself calling a play once just to see them going against each other," Pfund said. "He looks very talented to me, very strong."

That wasn't much consolation Wednesday for Jackson. "It was fun tonight," said Jackson, who professed no regrets over not becoming a Laker, "but he hit more one on one than me."

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