Lakers crush Bullets, 129-99 Washington suffers worst loss of season

February 03, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- There were just under six minutes left in the game when longtime Los Angeles Lakers fan Jack Nicholson got up from his seat near the Washington Bullets' bench and headed for the exit. Too bad he didn't stay -- Bullets coach Jim Lynam may have been inclined to suit up Nicholson and play him.

That's because nothing went right for the Bullets in their first and only visit to the Great Western Forum this season, and they were crushed by the Lakers, 129-99, before a sellout crowd of 17,505.

It was the worst loss of the season for the Bullets (22-23), who dropped their second straight and fifth in their past seven games.

"It was pretty embarrassing," said Rod Strickland, staring at the floor as he iced his injured right ankle. "Defensively, we stunk it up. The transition defense, there was absolutely no help. We can't play like that."

The Lakers set season highs for points in a first quarter (46) and points in a half (78).

The game was tight for the first six minutes, with Washington trailing by just three after Strickland (team-high 23 points) scored on a layup with 6: 16 left. But the Lakers outscored Washington by 21 the rest of the quarter to take the 46-22 lead.

"Any time a team gets 46 points in the first quarter, it's frustrating," Chris Webber said. "They built a big lead, and their confidence was high."

By the half the Lakers had four starters in double figures, and each of the five starters scored at least 13 points by game's end. Shaquille O'Neal led the way with 24 points before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a bruised right knee.

Maybe it was a bruise. Or maybe it was just O'Neal's desire to get showered early in a game that was over early. The Lakers shot 52.7 percent for the game, and scored 72 points in the paint in what pretty much amounted to a layup clinic.

The Lakers had a 55-38 edge in rebounding, and went to the free-throw line 36 times -- 24 times in the first half alone. Los Angeles scored its 100th point with 3: 46 left in the third quarter and the game could have essentially been called right there.

It was a shocking turn of events for the Bullets, who had played to the wire in a physical two-point loss at Seattle on Friday.

Having played some of the top teams tight this season, the Bullets came into the game confident. But in the end it amounted to another loss, with the Bullets running their record to 0-12 against teams that are currently ranked either first or second in their respective divisions.

"Nobody's more surprised at the kind of game that we had here than I am," Lakers coach Del Harris said. "I was expecting a really tough one, hard banging. And we came out and played the best quarter we've played this year."

And so the Bullets lost for the 21st time in their past 23 games against the Lakers. A team that was hoping to go into the All-Star break with a bit of momentum instead has to try to regroup tonight in Utah, where the Bullets haven't won since 1987.

"We still have two more games in this trip. We still have a chance to come away with a split," Webber said. "We can't give up now. It's not about what we do before the break, it's about what we do for the rest of the season. We can still end this trip on a positive note by winning these next two games."

It'll be tough for Webber tonight, going against one of the top power forwards in the league in Utah's Karl Malone. Webber had a difficult time last night, as he missed all five of his shots in the first quarter. Webber finished the game with 13 points, hitting six of 16 shots from the field.

Juwan Howard had 21 points and seven assists. What was surprising last night was the amount of time spent on the court by Howard and Webber in a game that was clearly a blowout in the first quarter. Howard played a game-high 37 minutes, while Webber was right behind with 36 minutes.

That's a lot of unnecessary energy expended for two guys who have to play tonight. The Bullets can just hope the result won't be anything near the same as last night.

"We'll just have to try to forget this one," said Howard, sporting a bandage above his cut right eye. "This was a horrendous game. It ranks right up there as one of the worst. Truly, we don't want anything like this to happen again."

Bullets tonight

Opponent: Utah Jazz

Site: Delta Center, Salt Lake City

Time: 9

TV/Radio: HTS/WWRC (980 AM)

Outlook: This is the teams' first meeting of the season. It's also the third game of a four-game road trip for the Bullets, who have lost nine straight in Utah dating to 1987. Utah's five-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 100-97 loss at Dallas. Jazz F Karl Malone (26.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg) and G John Stockton (14.2 ppg, 10.4 apg) will represent the Western Conference in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game.

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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