If the Phoenix Suns could not break the Los Angeles Lakers' home-court dominance Tuesday night, perhaps they never will.
With the Lakers as vulnerable as they have been in the Forum since the playoffs began, the Suns did not seize a rare opportunity in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals and head home Wednesday after losing 101-95 before a crowd of 17,505.Though inartistic and lacking in quality play in every area except defense, the Lakers nonetheless hold a two-games-to-none lead in the series. In the process, they handed the Suns their 19th straight defeat and Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons his 35th consecutive loss at the Forum.
Said Lakers Coach Pat Riley: "It was great to win, despite a lackluster offensive performance. It was vital we hold serve. Psychologically, 1-1 and 2-0 is a big, big difference going into their place. It changes everything."
Had this game been played in Phoenix, Ariz., where the Lakers were blown out three times this season, perhaps it would not have been salvageable after an uninspired first half and a dismal offensive display during the third quarter.
But at the Forum, and using a trapping defense that harnessed Suns point guard Kevin Johnson, the Lakers pulled it out.
"We realize when the game is crucial and we tend to focus in then," Lakers forward James Worthy said. "We know when we have to do it."
That time was the final minutes of the third quarter and most of the fourth.
Trailing by four points after a ragged first half, the Lakers came out fired up at the start of the second but misfired with nearly everything they attempted. The Lakers shot 38 percent in the quarter and scored only 20 points.
Normally against the Suns, such a performance would be a death sentence. But the Suns shot even worse than the Lakers, 29.1 percent, during the third quarter and carried only a two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
"Both teams seemed to be in a stretch of missing," Magic Johnson said. "Then, we just waited for somebody to get that run and we finally got it ... and made it our game."
Their trapping defense being the catalyst, the Lakers surged as Worthy's cold shooting thawed, Orlando Woolridge heated up off the bench and Magic Johnson took control of play as an NBA most valuable player should.
The Lakers forced Kevin Johnson into an uncharacteristic seven turnovers. More impressive, though, was that Michael Cooper's defensive pressure kept the ball out of Johnson's hands at key times.
As a result, the Suns shot only 33 percent in the second half. The Lakers, meanwhile, finally jump-started their offense after being stifled for three quarters by the Suns' pressure defense.
Kevin Johnson said fatigue played a part in his inauspicious triple-double - 22 points, 10 assists, 10 turnovers.
"I got a little tired in the second half," Johnson said. "I wasn't able to sustain it."
Worthy, who sank 63.2 percent of his shots in the previous eight playoff games, made only 7 of 17 shots this time. He missed every jump shot he attempted through three quarters before he finally stopped shooting from the perimeter.
Byron Scott was the only consistently hot Laker. Scott led all scorers with 30 points.