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Even in Victory, Lakers Are Embarrassed

March 11, 1994|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The amazing thing was that the Lakers could talk so clearly in their locker room late Thursday night. That would have seemed difficult to do after nearly choking so bad.

At least they salvaged a victory while losing face, blowing a 28-point lead in the first quarter to the NBA's worst team and falling behind in the third period before giving themselves the Heimlich to hold on and beat the Dallas Mavericks, 106-101, at the Forum.

Before 11,149 often disbelieving, disgruntled fans, Vlade Divac got his second triple-double of the season with 22 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists, the latter tying a career high. The Mavericks almost got their biggest comeback victory ever, only to fall short.

"Someone asked me the question if it would have been embarrassing if we had lost," James Worthy said. "It's still embarrassing."

Countered Coach Randy Pfund, when someone suggested he can't be too happy even with a victory: "I am 1,000% happy. In this league, you take a win."

The Mavericks arrived with the worst offense in the NBA and their leading scorer, Jamal Mashburn, home with a strained hip muscle. That left only one active player averaging in double figures, Jim Jackson.

So what happened seemed inevitable. The Lakers needed six possessions to grab a 10-point lead, 12-2, then made that seem like a warm-up. The cushion grew to 20 points at 32-12 less than 10 minutes into the game, then finally to 28, 42-14, on Worthy's driving layup with 29 seconds left in the opening period.

The Lakers shot 64% that first quarter, compared to 25% for the Mavericks, and got offensive contributions from all eight who played. The lead then remained at better than 20 points through the midpoint of the second quarter, and when Dallas began to whittle away, the intrusion seemed innocent enough.

By halftime, however, the Mavericks were within 66-55, even as the Lakers shot 65.9%. A little more than two minutes into the third quarter, the deficit dropped to 68-60, then 72-70 before the teams traded baskets. Then it happened--with 2:21 to go on Tim Legler's 16-footer--a tie game.

The Mavericks--the Mavericks without their best player--had used a 64-36 run to gain a 78-78 tie, so noted by the boos directed at the Lakers. It only got louder when Dallas temporarily took a one-point lead near the end of the quarter.

"Our legs started shaking, we were losing confidence and we couldn't make a basket," Divac said. "They got closer and closer, and it got worse and worse."

Continuing to live dangerously, the Lakers fell behind, 90-86, early in the fourth, before moving back ahead, 94-90, Worthy supplying a spark with a jumper and a feed to Divac for a layin. That held up for the win as the Mavericks got as close as two points and were down by three, 104-101, with 47 seconds left when forced to foul intentionally.

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