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Bad Pass, CBA Journeyman Only Thing Dogging the Lakers : Pro basketball: Bucks' $68-million rookie No. 1 draft pick Glenn Robinson makes debut, but Van Exel's turnover costs Los Angeles in 97-96 loss.


MILWAUKEE — The mega-buck Buck? Glenn Robinson, the Lakers could handle him.

Marty Conlon, big-time only to moving companies, playing for the minimum, guaranteed $68 million less than the Big Dog? Big Trouble.

Robinson, the No. 1 draft pick, finally made his debut Saturday night and collected eight points, four rebounds and five turnovers in 13 minutes in a reserve role. But Conlon made the play that mattered at the Bradley Center, stealing the ball from Nick Van Exel on an ill-advised pass and helping the Milwaukee Bucks steal a 97-96 victory over the Lakers before 18,633.

The Lakers had the ball, a one-point lead and an insurance-policy timeout with about 15 seconds left. They should have had Van Exel at the line, too, because the Bucks, playing catchup from what was a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter, were forced to foul to stop the clock and get the ball back. At least they should have been.

But when Van Exel picked up his dribble deep in the backcourt against a two-man trap, he was suddenly in trouble, not Milwaukee. He could have called a timeout to escape the jam, but said later it didn't occur to him. Searching for an open man, he threw the ball to Sedale Threatt, standing across midcourt.

Conlon intercepted at the 10-second line and raced toward the basket, but was fouled by Threatt just before getting close enough for a layup.

At the line, with 11.8 seconds left, he swished both shots to put the Bucks ahead for the first time since halftime.

"We were down by one," Conlon said. "I knew I had to do something, even if I fouled."

Not possible. Not Conlon, who opened last season with Rockford of the Continental Basketball Assn. before bouncing from the Charlotte Hornets to the Washington Bullets, who had also played with the Sacramento Kings and Seattle SuperSonics earlier in his career and who came to the Bucks for $150,000. He can do no wrong.

Friday, in the season opener at Philadelphia, he scored 20 points, tying Johnny Newman for team-high honors, as the Bucks won, 91-86.

Saturday, in the home opener, when people came to see Robinson even though Coach Mike Dunleavy had said the rookie with the $68.15-million contract probably would not play, he got 11 of his 15 points in the second half in a one-point victory.

Next stop, Las Vegas. Bring the hundreds.

"I don't know if it's surprising," Conlon said. "But it feels good."

Not to the Lakers. Even with a rookie point guard last season, they had the third-fewest turnovers in the league, and then they opened Friday by committing only 14 in the victory at Detroit. Then came another 20-victory team from last season, a team with one starting guard injured and one future starting forward with all of one game-day shoot-around of NBA experience.

Come late in the fourth quarter, the Lakers held a 94-90 lead before the roof caved in. Three bad passes, two by Van Exel, in the final 2:10 became six Buck points. Counting an offensive foul by Threatt, four of their 16 turnovers came in those last 130 seconds.

None, of course, was bigger than Van Exel's pass.

"I saw him," Van Exel said of Conlon. "But we're in the NBA. You're supposed to come to the ball. That's common sense."

Said Threatt, the intended target who didn't: "Everybody should have come back."

Instead, nobody did. Van Exel was stuck, made a bad decision by not calling the timeout that would have bailed him out and then a bad pass.

That makes the Lakers 1-1 with a visit to Madison Square Garden up next.

"The turnovers were costly to us," said Coach Del Harris, who spent eight seasons with the Bucks as a scout, assistant and head coach.

"I was hoping that after only 14 (Friday) night that we had turned the corner on turnovers, which had been a problem during the eight preseason games. But we self-destructed.

"We hurt ourselves with the turnovers, no question about it. Milwaukee stayed in the game and battled. All in all, it was a lesson in effort. As far as the effort of Marty Conlon."

Laker Notes

When Anthony Peeler was held out of Friday's game at Detroit, it was the first time in two-plus seasons as a pro that he has not played on a coach's decision. The starting shooting guard from a year ago didn't get in Saturday, either. . . . Cedric Ceballos led the Lakers with 20 points. Vin Baker had 22 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs, for the Bucks. . . . If fans had a problem with Glenn Robinson's lengthy holdout and original demand of $100 million, it didn't show. The former Purdue All-American was cheered wildly during pregame introductions and then every time he so much as made a layup.

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