There is more to the Los Angeles Lakers than a 7-foot-3 all-world center named kareem AbduL-Jabbar.
True, Abdul-Jabbar starred in the Lakers' 108-101 victory over the Washington Bullets yesterday, but an old friend of his Lucius Allen, directed the show.
With Allen darting into the middle almost at will and a bunch of jump shooters hitting seemingly from mid-court, the Lakers had too much firepower this day.
Abdul-Jabbar dropped in 35 points with a nice assortment of sky hooks, turnaround jumpers and a couple of crunching dunks. He collected only six rebounds, eight under his average, but he had four assists and three blocked shots.
Allen posted 22 points, six assists and four steals.
"He is the one who settles us down," Abdul-Jabbar said of Allen, who played with him both at UCLA and in Milwaukee. "He keeps us from making wild and wooly plays."
The Bullets, playing their fifth game in six days and third in three, labored virtually the entire contest. The Lakers, by contrast, were playing only their game in 10 days and were a loose, frolicking group.
"We played one of our better games in a long time," coach Jerry West said. "Enthusiasm is the key, and we had a lot of it."
The Bullets dug themselves into a hole in the first period and were never able to get out.
Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier and Tom Henderson each scored on the Bullets' first three possessions to give them a 6-0 lead and excite the Capital Centre crowd of 16,904. The excitment was short-lived. The Lakers outscored the Bullets 27-6 over the next eight minutes.
After their 6-0 start, the Bullets turned the ball over in 11 if their next 24 possessions.
Allen and Abdul-Jabbar had to points each in the first period, which ended with the Lakers on top, 31-20.
Los Angeles scored 10 unanswered points late in the second quarter, staking them to a 60-44 halftime advantage.
Every time the Bullets made a run at the Lakers, Allen would come up with an outstanding play, Abdul-Jabbar would go to work or somebody like Earl Tatum, Cazzie Russell or C. J. Kupec would throw in a long jumper.
The Bullets got as close as nine-points on two occasions early in the fourth period, but both times Tatum winged home jumpers that Bullet coach Dick Motta said should have been worth four points each if long bombs in the old ABA counted three.
The Bullets did cut the gap to six, on five straight points by Hayes, with 2:40 to play. But Abdul-Jabbar made a pair of free throws and Allen made one to get the lead back to nine.
Motta was disappointed in his team for failure to run much of an offense early in the game, but said, "They could have quit and didn't. They kept coming back."
He added that much of the trouble traced to the fact that the Lakers play one of the better zone (illegal) defenses in the league and the Bullets weren't running plays designed to beat that type of defense.
"I just don't think we were ready mentally," Motta said. "I feel bad when we get a TV game and don't show a true product, but that's the NBA."
Yesterday's game was televised regionally (blacked out here).
Hayes, who shared the duty of guarding Abdul-Jabbar with Wes Unseld, led the Bullets with 29 points and took 14 rebounds.
As impressive as the Lakers were on offenses, it was probably their defense that won the game.
"Our defense was exceptionally tough," West said. "They (the Bullets) were tired and we pressed them all over the floor."
"We match up with them real well and we just put a lot of pressure on them," Abdul-Jabbar added.
The game plan, according to Allen was to double-team Chenier whenever he drove to the baseline to force him to pass the ball. Chenier usually tried to get it back to Unseld, but the Lakers, early in the game, had someone waiting in the passing lane to pick it off.
The Bullets made the adjustment later, but by that time the Lakers were off and running.
Motta said he will give the bullets today off and resume practice Tuesday. The Bullets have three games this week, all at Capital Centre. They play Indiana on Wednesday, Milwaukee on Saturday and Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.