Work in Sports
Lakers aren't ready for 'Showtime'
Posted: Saturday June 17, 2000 08:25 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- While these Los Angeles Lakers figure to win a championship Monday or Wednesday, they don't measure up to those of the "Showtime" era.
Who says so?
Someone who should know.
And the reason?
Take a look at what happened in Indianapolis on Friday night.
"I've said it many times, you can't compare this team with the team of the decade [of the '80s]," said A.C. Green, a first-stringer in the final days of Showtime and a Lakers' starter now.
"That's not fair. We're all being assembled now as pieces of the puzzle. Those teams had a bunch of veterans. You just can't do it."
Green was a member of NBA championship Lakers' teams in 1987-88 -- the final two of five title winners in the '80s. Among the stars of the Showtime teams were Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
The current Lakers, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, are one win away from the franchise's first championship since 1988, and their 67-15 regular-season record was better than any of the Showtime teams.
However, these Lakers have played several sub-par games in the playoffs when it appeared they had the opposition by the throat, and they hit a low at Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday night with a 120-87 loss to the Pacers.
Then again, that could all be forgotten pretty quickly.
The Indiana win cut the Lakers' lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2, with Game 6 to be played Monday night at Staples Center. Should the Pacers prevail, a seventh game would be played at the same site two nights later.
"The series is not over. We didn't close it out," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said.
"Their energy of not wanting to be eliminated, watching us celebrate on their court, we didn't match that," Lakers forward Rick Fox said.
"We laid an egg; we've laid the egg before," Lakers guard Ron Harper said. "This is nothing new to us. We had a bad game."
Green, Harper and several of their teammates admit to being puzzled by the fact that the Lakers have now lost six playoff games when they had an opportunity to win a series -- they were previously beaten twice by Sacramento, once by Phoenix and twice by Portland in those situations.
Of course, it should be pointed out that the Lakers ultimately beat the Kings, Suns and Trail Blazers impressively to continue on in the playoffs, and have two chances to do the same against the Pacers.
"There's no excuse for it," Fox said of the letdowns the Lakers have experienced. "We'd like to right that this year, during the championship run."
Considering all the facts, it would be extremely surprising if they don't, and Indiana becomes the first team in NBA Finals history to successfully come back from a 3-1 deficit.
For one thing, the Lakers, listed as 7 1/2-point favorites Monday night, were 36-5 at home during the regular season and have won 10 of their 12 playoff games at Staples.
For another, they haven't lost three straight games since eventual champion San Antonio swept them in the second round of last year's playoffs.
For a third, the Pacers are 0-3 at Staples Center this year, losing once in the regular season and twice last week to begin this series.
And finally, the Pacers still haven't come up with an answer to defend O'Neal, who has averaged 37.4 points in the finals.
"We're a little disappointed [about what happened Friday night], but it's really no biggie," said Bryant, who followed up a brilliant performance in the Lakers' 120-118 overtime victory in Game 4 with a major dud -- eight points on 4-of-20 shots.
"What we have to do is just put it behind us and just go to Staples on Monday and try to close it out," Bryant said.
"We're sitting in the driver's seat in this situation," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We bounced back from games like this before."