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Stunned Suns Add a Starter Against Lakers : NBA playoffs: Kevin Johnson returns today to put some heat on Threatt.

May 02, 1993|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHOENIX — The Lakers did all the right things Friday and said all the right things Saturday, careful not to gloat after jolting the Phoenix Suns and dousing an entire city's victory celebration.

The red-and-white striped tents dotting the Civic Plaza stood empty Saturday, the party pooped by the Lakers' 107-103 victory at the America West Arena. And while the Lakers savored their series-opening defeat of the Suns, preparing for the return of Sun point guard Kevin Johnson today in Game 2 left them too busy to dwell on their finest moment of the season.

"Phoenix is definitely going to come out and make a statement," said Sedale Threatt, who made 17 of 24 field goal attemps and scored a game-high 35 points Friday. "They've still got a great team.

"They've got a bunch of All-Stars and they're going to play hard. For us, the second game is more pressure. . . . I know (today) it won't be that easy, coming off screens like I did. They're going to double-team me and it's going to be a totally different game."

Johnson sat out the first game to give his sprained left knee time to heal. His replacement, Negele Knight, scored 10 points as Threatt and Byron Scott outscored their backcourt counterparts, 57-19.

As much as the Suns missed Johnson's ballhandling, they missed his defensive skills even more. Coach Paul Westphal lamented his team's inability to hold on after Tom Chambers' baseline jump shot with 2:39 to play put Phoenix ahead, 103-98, and said Johnson should help defensively.

"KJ's our best guy to play Sedale and it would be nice to have him," Westphal said. "If he's (a totally fit) KJ, he can help us a great deal in a lot of ways.

"I think their defense was excellent, but I don't think that was why they won the game. I think they won the game because our defense wasn't excellent."

Said Johnson: "It's imperative for our team to come out with some defensive intensity. Sedale Threatt is such a great offensive player that it's impossible for one guy to stop another guy by himself. All I can do is try my best and with help, try to wear him down."

Threatt said he is prepared for double coverage by the Suns, who are eager to win at home before the series shifts to the Forum on Tuesday.

"If they double-team me, other guys are going to be open, and that means Vlade (Divac) and Byron are going to have to step up and knock the shots down," Threatt said. "You let me come off a screen, I'm going to knock it down, and you know they're definitely going to take that away."

But no one can take away the invincible feeling he enjoyed Friday. "It doesn't come like that but once a year, being in a zone like that," Threatt said. "One time, I went down (after banging his knee) and I was hurting, but I was in a zone and I wanted to play."

The Lakers' Randy Pfund seemed to be in a similar coaching zone.

Pfund, who was inconsistent with his rotation during the season, won praise from his players for making all the right moves Friday. He skillfully juggled Divac and Elden Campbell after the two got into foul trouble in the third quarter, and got four points and an assist from rookie Doug Christie in the first half before Christie committed a turnover that signaled it was time for Threatt's return.

"His substitution pattern was the best I've seen. He knew what was going on in the game as far as matchups," said Scott, a vocal critic of how Pfund allotted playing time. "I thought he did an excellent job from tipoff until the end of the game."

Said Divac: "He motivated us. He gave us examples of how the worst team in the conference can go really far and he told us about how Phoenix in 1976 went all the way to the finals. He did an excellent job to make the tactics for how we played, especially defensively."

Pfund downplayed his contribution, saying he--and his team--can do better.

"Several things worked out for us," he said, "but I'm not happy with my play call after we called time out with (1:29) to go. We ended up turning the ball over. I know I would have lived with that call for a long time had we not come back and stole the ball from them.

"Sedale had a marvelous, marvelous game, but James Worthy (four for 15) could have a better game. Vlade could have a better game. Byron had a very, very good game. I'm hoping we've got some up-side to our game and we can put together an even better game. I hope that wasn't a perfect game for us."

It was far from that for the Suns.

"We did not play well and we've just got to go out and play like we played pretty much all year," Charles Barkley said. "I expected this to be a tough series. I didn't expect us to win 15 games in a row and be world champions."

Laker Notes

The Lakers have won 43 of the 50 playoff series in which they have won the opener. . . . Charles Barkley, on why he didn't share the city's despondency: "I just don't think like everybody else. That would make me normal. A good friend of mine died this week (Jim Valvano) and another friend got stabbed (Monica Seles). Losing a basketball game, that's not the worst thing in the world."

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