YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Continuity Isn't Name of Game


PALM SPRINGS — Long ago in a ghost town far away--downtown L.A.--Portland and the Lakers played Game 1, a game so bygone it was possible in the interim to simply drift off.

That's drift off as in snooze, a possibility both during the game and afterward, and drift off as in just start driving and wind up lounging in a senior-citizen paradise, mainly as a method of acknowledging the ancient Utah Jazz's shocking victory at Sacramento.

Game 1 in Los Angeles did feature some themes, but occurred so long ago it proved wise to write them down.

Here's one: the Kobe-stopper. Portland's Ruben Patterson had trumpeted his ability to frustrate Laker phenom Kobe Bryant, so Laker fans, in a failed attempt to lend the series flavor, proved again that fan bases are actually tribes. They booed Patterson repeatedly not for any breach of the law--they wouldn't know or care--but because he said something unworshipful about one of their fold.

The Kobe-stopper helped hold Bryant to 10-of-28 shooting, a boon, yet Bryant still scored 34 points, a bust.

It seems that, back around Game 1, somebody said something about Portland Coach Maurice Cheeks asking employee Rasheed Wallace to occasionally guard the gigantic Shaquille O'Neal, an effort that might erode Wallace's offense. "It will" erode Wallace's offense, Phil Jackson said. "It's a load."

Like many--no, wait, all--coaches, however, Cheeks isn't flush with luxuries about guarding O'Neal. Give him marks for innovation, even while O'Neal hilariously takes responsibility for chasing Arvydas Sabonis back to Lithuania and vows he'd happily do it again.

Wallace's offense calls to mind the box score, even though it's yellowed and frayed and barely legible by now. The archaic document notes a sublime offensive game from Portland reserve Derek Anderson.

This makes sense, because any wise team would anoint Anderson a spiritual leader. Well, of course he came through. What's less sensible--beat the old drum--is the makeup of the Trail Blazers, whereby Anderson can get hot in the second quarter, but on the next cluster of offensive plays, teammates don't look for him because they have so many other capable alpha males to feed.

It rings in the head somewhere that Bonzi Wells, marvelous young player, had a Game 1 more young than marvelous, totally forgivable, and could alter Game 2. It's barely familiar that Scottie Pippen, marvelous old player, spent Game 1 bolstering the theory that Jackson resides in his head, mostly forgivable, given the perpetual weirdness of opposing his old coach.

Meanwhile, none of the above matters a whit if Portland can't puncture the Lakers' sense of invulnerability. We watch, toothpicks in eyes, just in case this ever happens and we suddenly find ourselves startled wide awake.

Los Angeles Times Articles