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FRIDAY, AT LOS ANGELES
While driving a rental car following an afternoon practice, Mahorn backs up traffic on a street near the Forum when he stops the car and jumps into the backseat to pummel Dawkins, who has been slapping the back of Mahorn's head. "On a trip this long," says Mahorn, "you got to get a little crazy."
Meanwhile, Derek Smith, the 76ers' sixth man, is riding to meet a chiropractor, whose name and address are on the torn Yellow Page that Smith holds in his hand. This will be the second time on the trip that Smith has had an adjustment made on his right sacroiliac joint, which slipped out of place during the preseason when Barkley drilled him as Smith tried to dunk. After one elbow, one hip, three knee and two left-eye operations, all since 1985, Smith could update Gray's Anatomy. He spends 15 minutes detailing his medical history to Dr. Guillermo Dozal. Dozal's adjustment to his back takes about 10 seconds.
The prospect of playing the Lakers in Los Angeles is daunting. However, Smith, whom Philadelphia picked up on waivers last season from the Sacramento Kings, welcomes the challenge. "We've got a very loose and very talented bunch, and we always get back to saying we can win any game," Smith says.
The game seems to be decided in the first half, which looks like Showtime versus no-show time. Los Angeles rolls out to a 67-51 lead by shooting 69.7% against a Philly defense that's several steps too slow. The Sixers also struggle with their perimeter shooting, which they desperately need to lighten Barkley's load. Philly rallies but eventually falls 122-116, out of gas if not heart. "We got caught up in the aura of being in L.A. and not being aware we were in a basketball game," says Mahorn.
SATURDAY, AT PHOENIX
The Suns have won seven games in a row, are 22-5 at home and have had a day to rest. After the game against the Lakers, the Sixers take an 11 a.m. flight that arrives in Phoenix at 1:30 p.m. They have time to eat and maybe rest but no time to plan for the 7:30 game. The 76ers saunter into Veterans Memorial Coliseum barely an hour before tip-off. Carter scribbles some Suns plays on the blackboard. Rap music blares on a tape deck. "This is whipping me into a frenzy," says Gminski jokingly as he stretches on the floor.
"We try to make the players aware they have to come out early, really ready to go, because the team in the other locker room knows the type of game we played last night," says Lynam. "They [the Suns] are talking about getting a good start and trying—literally—to win this game in the first eight minutes." They actually need 7:52. By then Phoenix has roared to a 31-12 lead en route to a 126-99 blowout. The Sixers again shoot poorly. For the entire trip, Barkley excluded, they will shoot 43.6%.
Mahorn gets two points and no rebounds, numbers Barkley later trumpets to their teammates in the locker room. "You're stealing money," he shouts at Mahorn.
Barkley's 12 points and four rebounds are far below his standards, but he's too weary to worry. He's the only 76er who's double-teamed night in and night out, and his ability to carry the club at 6'4¾" and 253 pounds is a wonder of the league. Someone asks him about Dan Majerle's defense on him. "Dan Majerle can't stop me, man," he says. "I'm just tired." After three weeks of teetotaling, Barkley vows he will have a beer or several on the flight home.