Career outing by Divac proves enough for Lakers

February 15, 1991|By Mark Heisler | Mark Heisler,Los Angeles Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Home to lick their wounds -- well, their wound -- the Los Angeles Lakers took their sweet time but finally dispatched the patsy proffered by the schedule, the Minnesota Timberwolves, starting another winning streak.

This one is one game, after they left their 16-gamer in Phoenix.

It took most of Tuesday night before a spectacular run by Vlade Divac, who was in turn whipped back into action once again by Magic Johnson, turned the game. Divac scored 18 points, took 13 rebounds, blocked six shots, made four steals and three flashy assists, got a standing ovation from the Forum crowd of 16,662 and led the Lakers to a 120-106 victory.

"You know Mandrake the Magician?" Divac said. "That's me."

Said Minnesota coach Bill Musselman: "He gave them blocked shots, he made steals, he ran the floor. . . . I've never seen him play that good, on tape or anywhere. That's his career game. Heck, he hasn't played like that since his eighth-grade picnic.

"He played like someone turpentined him."

That, of course, was Johnson, who snarled at Divac early in the third quarter, after which Divac went on to block five more shots, take seven more rebounds and turn the game around.

"Like I told you earlier, my whole job is to make sure he doesn't slip," Johnson said.

"And also to give him double high-fives when he's playing the way he was in the third quarter and the fourth quarter."

Late in the game, Divac showed off his floor game, dribbling the length of the court and whipping the ball to A.C. Green for a layup. The crowd entered nirvana while Divac and Green pulled imaginary six-guns.

"At one point he played like a Golbetrotter," Minnesota guard Tony Campbell said. "He's from across the water. He'd dribble between his legs and make wraparound passes. I'd like to have that in a center, too."

The night started with observers once more unable to pierce the veil of mystery that shrouds Musselman's choice of a lineup.

He made only one change from the one submitted by his publicist, returning leading scorer Campbell to starting status. Monday in Oakland, Campbell was the 11th Minnesota player into the game. Musselman explained that trade speculation was affecting Campbell's mind. Others suspect Musselman was upset that Campbell was complaining publicly again.

Anyway, Musselman's lineup surprised everyone by not being blown out immediately or at all, even leading after the first quarter, 30-28. The Timberwolves fell 11 back in the second quarter, then knocked it down to 59-54 at the half, led by Pooh Richardson, who scarcely could have been better: 22 points (shooting 10 for 15), six assists, four rebounds by intermission.

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