There had to have been a few panicky self-doubts through the first three quarters. Imagine yourself on the LA bench yesterday - or worse, on the court. "Are we overrated?" you might have been wondering. "Were our previous playoff series really too easy? Are we (gulp) just not good enough to beat the Celtics ?"
Thoughts like those would have made most champions angry.
Instead, for the Lakers, perspective arrived.
"Greg Kite came in and they're still hitting," Laker guard Magic Johnson said after LA's 148-114 loss. 'He's making three lefthanded hooks. And then, one time, Carlos . . . what's his name?"
Clark. Carlos Clark.
"Carlos Clark goes in, and he looks like he's going to pass it," Johnson said. "Then he shoots it in."
So much for self-doubts, the Lakers agreed. This was mainly just a matter of the other team shooting 60.8 percent, LA was saying. Scott Wedman was perfect. Greg Kite was 3 for 5. The Lakers were even getting spanked by someone named Carlos.
"We were ready," Johnson said. "We were playing our style. We did our game plan, we doubled. Just nothing didn't work. You go with the game plan and if it didn't work, what can you do?"
Magic appeared content. His team had tried, had lost, and still had at least three more chances - no, three more opportunities. Their coach, Pat Riley, was saying, "I guarantee you, if we get a split Thursday, everybody will forget about this game."
That made sense.
"But I'm not going to shrug it off," said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (12 points, three rebounds in 22 minutes). "You can't shrug off something like this."
Abdul-Jabbar spoke quietly, legs crossed, rarely meeting anyone's eyes. He seemed preoccupied with the book in his lap: "The Wishsong of Shannara - An Epic Fantasy." He kept flicking its pages.
"I didn't start thinking about Game 2," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I was just wondering how bad it would get. And it got worse.
"I wasn't suspecting them to shoot that well the whole game, and they did. We know we can play better than that - we can have confidence in that. That's all the inspiration we need. I think we can use the days to just analyze what happened."
That made more sense. This was their fourth consecutive championship series, and now they had seen it all. A few days to regroup and they would play it again. Better.
"This don't set me back," Johnson said. "It's just one game, still. I'm a winner. I want to go."
Let's run through it one more time. The first half was explainable. Give the Celtics credit - they were ready. "They have been prepared by Detroit, Cleveland and Philly, no question," said James Worthy, 5 for 14 in the first half. "I think we sort of let them run anything they wanted. We weren't aggressive defensively, and by the time we started playing, it was too late.
"We were getting the shots we usually take, they just weren't falling. I'm embarrassed," he said politely.
Yet the Lakers claimed to approach the second half - despite trailing by 30 - with a good attitude. "We figured if we could get it down around 18 near the end of the third quarter, we would have a chance," Johnson said. "When did I think it was over? Well, when they get up by 30 or something at the end of the third, that's pretty tough."
When the 48th minute was over the Lakers' locker room was conspicuous by its absence of disgust. Kurt Rambis was not threatening to drop a reporter into a trash barrel. Pat Riley was not intimidating. And Abdul-Jabbar was not even emotional (though that would have been really weird).
"We're playing in the playoffs," Worthy said. "If we were in their (the Celtics') situation, we'd try to make a statement, too."
When the Celtics lost like this in last year, they angrily criticized each other (and came back to beat the Lakers). When the championship series blowout was reversed yesterday, the smooth, loose LA guys were laid back. Spell it out. Thirty-four points, they lost by!
"Oh, I'm mad," Johnson said when asked if he wasn't. "My thing is, I'll be by myself, and I'll be mad. You get mad, but you don't play mad, understand?"