The Seattle SuperSonics' trainer surely exercised bad judgement in allowing any of his players to handle sharp objects after today's game, but there was forward Johnny Johnson, sitting on a bench in the varsity dressing room at Hec Edmundson Pavillion, glowering and slicing the tape off his ankles.
He would have needed something sharper to cut the gloom in the room. The Lakers had just whipped the Sonics, 98-93, before a sold-out home crowd, a wrung-out 8,524 fans in this quaint old campus gymnasium.
"It was embarrassing, what occurred today," Johnson said.
The Lakers, down 21 points halfway into the third quarter, destroyed the Sonics with a little run 'n stun basketball.
The Lakers lead the best-of-seven Western Conference championship series, three games to one. And now the series returns to Los Angeles. Game 5 is scheduled Wednesday night, at the Forum.
"They (the Sonics) claim they like to play with their backs against the wall," said Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, "and at this point, they're about to go over the wall."
Abdul-Jabbar quickly qualified the statement by saying, "We still have a great deal of respect for the Sonics, but I think we can get it in L.A."
Or, as Magic Johnson said, "I can be joyed, but I can't be overjoyed."
The Lakers won with the unlikely combination of perhaps their worst first half of the season and maybe their finest second half.
Down 21 points with 6:36 left in the third quarter, they outscored the Sonics, 24 to two, then trailing by four points with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter, they outscored the defending world champs, 11-0.
The Sonics did make a late run at the Lakers, but when Downcast Freddy Brown missed a three-point att empt that would have tied the game with 12 seconds left -- it was Brown's 11th missed field goal in 11 tries -- the Sonics were dead.
The two big Laker scoring spurts came with Coach Paul Westhead's Slim Line, Johnson moving to power forward and Mike Copper playing guard. This group can move.
Seattle Coach Lenny Wilkins has referred to the Laker's running game as a rat race, but the Lakers have a more glamorous name for this particular group.
"The thoroughbreds," said Cooper. "That's what coach calls us. It feels like I'm racing at Santa Anita, but without a jockey. I just get to run loose."
Adbul-Jabbar led the Lakers in scoring with 25 points, including six in the last four minutes of the game. Jamaal Wilkes, missing in acton the first 2 1/2 games of the series, hit 10 of 16 shots for 24 points, and had 13 rebounds, tying Johnson for game honors. Wilkes hit two straight 20-foot jumpers in the 11-0 fourth-quarter surge.
The Lakers' 24-2 segment included three-point plays by Wilkes, Cooper and Abdul-Jabbar. The 11-0 portion of the fourth quarter went, briefly, like this:
Abdul-Jabbar jump shot . . . Norm Nixon layup from Johnson . . . Wilkes jumper . . . Wilkes jumper . . . Abdul-Jabaar blocks Lonnie Shelton layup . . . Abdul-Jabaar misses shot but Cooper tips loose ball to teammate . . . Abdul-Jabaar hook . . . Gus Williams misses and Wilkes rebounds . . . Johnson gets up straight offensive rebounds . . . Johnson makes one of two free throws.
What's surprising about the Laker comeback is that it wasn't surprising to the Lakers. There was no panic at halftime, no fanny-chewing by Westhead. The Laker locker room at halftime might have been the coolest spot in the steamy building.
"We knew we played terrible, but that we could come out and play better," Abdul-Jabaar said. "We knew that if we just focused, we could come back."
Someone pointed out that immediately after halftime, the Lakers continued to look horrible.
"It did go that way, didn't it," Abdul-Jabbar said with a smile.
Westhead explained the halftime strategy.
"We clearly identified with our guys that if we are a ball-control team, we should pack our bags right then and get on an early flight home, that the second half would be an exercise in futility. We're a fast break team, so 20 points is in no way insurmountable.
"We knew that our offense would score enough points to win," Westhead added, "but that if we didn't play tough defense, we wouldn't turn the game around. So the guys dug in and played better defense."
Westhead said that, two minutes into the third quarter, the Lakers reeling, "I knew it was gonna happen, I could see it and feel it. I just didn't know if he would play good enough defense."
The Lakers were a happy group after the game.
"The feeling is great," Nixon said, "just great.""