YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Lakers Still Look Defenseless : Pro basketball: Bullets chew them up inside and out in 124-118 victory.


LANDOVER, Md. — College basketball has its March Madness, the Lakers have theirs.

They beat the Chicago Bulls. They lose to the Boston Celtics. They lose to the Washington Bullets. A third consecutive lottery-bound opponent, Milwaukee, is next up, but suddenly this isn't the favorable stretch of schedule the Lakers might have hoped.

The only soft part about Saturday night at USAir Arena was their defense, which watched Michael Adams bomb from the outside and then gave a wide berth to Tom Gugliotta and Don MacLean coming inside. The result before 18,756 was a 124-118 victory for the Bullets, who came in averaging about 98 points a game, and more questions for the Lakers.

Coach Randy Pfund had been contemplating a change even before the game, considering the possibility of a small starting lineup with George Lynch at power forward instead of Elden Campbell and Doug Christie back at small forward. With the Lakers again going nowhere fast, losing for the seventh time in 10 games after an encouraging run, Pfund might experiment to see if a quicker lineup will mean better defense.

What happened Saturday--the Bullets shooting 58.1% and four players scoring at least 22 points--certainly won't change his thinking.

As MacLean noted after scoring 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds: "In the first half we talked about taking the ball to the basket more because nobody was contesting any shots."

The Bullets scored 71 points in the first half to lead by 14, Adams doing most of the damage by going five for five on three-pointers in the first quarter. He had 19 points at intermission. Gugliotta had 15 on seven-of-seven shooting and MacLean scored 12.

"When you've got three out of five not defending guys," Pfund said, "you're going to have problems."

It didn't help that this showing came a night after the Lakers, especially their forwards, were cut up by Dino Radja and the Celtics, surrendering 109 points to a team averaging about 99 and on a 13-game losing streak. Then they got buried, 39-27, in the first quarter by the Atlantic Division's last-place team. The deficit got as high as 16 in the second quarter.

"That was everybody," Campbell said, deflecting part of the blame from his coach. "It was like they could do anything."

Added Sedale Threatt, who had a season-high 32 points to lead the Lakers: "The whole game we were late on switches. They have great shooters. Take away one option, they have two more."

The Lakers got as close as three after three quarters, with Nick Van Exel making two more three-pointers, giving him 13 in three games, and scoring 13 points. When Threatt connected with 3:16 to go in the game, they were down by six points, but then came the tough part--defense.

The Bullets scored on their next eight possessions, though that was partly because the Lakers fouled intentionally. Either way, that put the game away.

"I never felt all night that we could really stop them enough to win the game," Pfund said. "If you allow 71 points in a half, you are pretty much digging yourself a big-time hole.

"I suppose if you get specific about it, we could play one set of guys on offense and one set of guys on defense. If you work out one of these deals where you can change on the fly, like hockey, it might work a little better."

Los Angeles Times Articles