Lakers Feel Need to Wrap up WCFs Like Today
The players themselves have not initiated the subject matter, but there is a highly practical reason why the Los Angeles Lakers feel they simply have no choice but to end their Western Conference final series with the Phoenix Suns tonight.
Ever since the Celtics won Game 3 of their series with the Bucks, the Lakers have been reminded that if Boston concludes its series with Milwaukee by tonight and the LA-Phoenix series goes to Friday, they would be faced with the unpleasant task of flying cross-country Saturday to play Game 1 of the finals in Boston Garden Sunday afternoon. Last year, the Lakers lost Game 5 of their San Antonio series in a similar situation. They defeated the Spurs in the sixth game, then headed to Philadelphia, where they were physically out of it and dropped the first of four straight to the Sixers.
However, among other relevant facts, this is a much better (i.e. deeper) club. At this point last season, they did not have James Worthy or Bob McAdoo, each out with a leg injury. These two have been ruinous to the Suns' health. McAdoo, in fact, is playing his best ball since his Buffalo days (seven years ago), while Worthy is one of the league's truly scary forces.
No team is perfect, of course, but the Lakers are stampeding through the Western Conference playoffs. They have won 10 out of 12, including all seven at the Forum. They are shooting .548 from the floor as a team. Two starters, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (114 for 182) and Mike McGee (75-121), are shooting over 60 percent in the playoffs. Only rookie Byron Scott (.472) among coach Pat Riley's first eight players is shooting under 50 percent. Their average victory margin is 11 points.
But the Suns must maintain the stiff upper lip. "We still have a chance," says coach John MacLeod. "The thing for us to do now is make sure we go back to LA and really play."
Given the stakes, the Lakers are unlikely to be passive, especially on defense, where they generate so much of their feared fast-break offense. "Because we're not flying all over the country every other day," explained Abdul-Jabbar, "we have enough energy to keep up our commitment to defense. It's hard to do every night during the season, but for the playoffs it's a different story."
Here's one sobering stat concerning defense, or, should we say, lack of offense. The Suns have not won a game this season in which they have scored fewer than 100 points. They enter tonight's game 0-18 in such contests.
There isn't much the Suns can do except to hope they have an extraordinary shooting game. They have been sagging on Kareem defensively, but he is still coming off back-to-back 31-point games. Meanwhile, McAdoo was busy sinking eight perimeter jumpers on Sunday in the backwash of the Suns' extreme concentration on Abdul-Jabbar.
The Lakers can beat you in a myriad of ways. "Versatility is the hallmark of a great athlete," said Abdul-Jabbar, "and we have great athletes on this team." Don't think MacLeod hasn't noticed.
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