The Los Angeles Lakers toyed with the Washington Bullets most of the time tonight, exerting themselves only when it seemed neccessary, and it was still no contest. The defending NBA champions routed the visitors, 122-92, at the Forum.
It was the Bullets' fifth straight defeat, equaling their longest losing streak of last season, and dropped them to 3-8. It was also their worst defeat of the year.
The Bullets never were in the game. They were down, 16-6, in the first five minutes and that was about as close as they got.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 23 points in the first period and didn't play in the fourth. Reserve Bob McAdoo scored 20.
Greg Ballard was the leading scorer for the Bullets with 16 points. Don Collins and Jeff Ruland each had 14.
Once again the Bullets had problems at the free throw line, making only 20 of 37 attempts. Ruland was four for 12 and Rick Mahorn one for seven. But the Bullets were so overmatched that it really didn't make a difference.
"They handled us so easily it wasn't even a game," said Washington Coach Gene Shue.
"We stunk," added guard john Lucas. "We need a win badly to get us some confidence."
Abdul-Jabbar, who is used to getting double-teamed most of the time, said the Bullets guarded him with only one player, "so it was easy getting the shots I wanted." Abdul-Jabbar made 10 of 13 shots.
This was the first of a four-game trip for the Bullets. The next stop is San Diego Saturday night to play the Clippers (WTOP-1500, 10:30). Center Bill Walton, who is on a once-a-week playing schedule while he rehabilitates a foot that has been rebuilt surgically, is expected to play.
Guard Magic Johnson of the Lakers was suffering from an intestinal virus and wasn't expected to dress for tonight's game, but after taking some medication he felt better and started.
He didn't take a shot in the first period, but the Lakers didn't need any points from him. Abdul-Jabbar made five of six shots and scored 12 points and Norm Nixon was four for four and had 10 points as the Lakers took a 36-20 lead after one quarter.
Johnson had four rebounds and four assists in the period.
The Lakers had lost two in a row and came out like they were taking it all out on the Bullets. Halfway through the quarter, they were up, 20-16, and Abdul-Jabbar already had 10 points. Mahorn was trying to guard him, but Abdul-Jabbar got whatever position he wanted and scored on short hook shots virtually at will.
Once they got a big lead, the Lakers went with what they call their running team -- Johnson and Nixon at guards, McAdoo at center and James Worthy and Michael Cooper at forwards. Cooper dunked off a lob pass from Johnson and scored two more fast-break baskets around a fast break by Worthy to give the Lakers a 44-24 lead two minutes into the second quarter.
Collins and Ballard led a comeback of sorts for the Bullets midway through the quarter, but they still couldn't get closer than 10 points. A 10-2 spurt accomplished that, with Ballard and Collins each scoring four. Los Angeles led, 52-42, with three minutes left in the half.
Johnson scored his only point of the half on the Lakers' next possession and Kurt Rambis made two more free throws after a miss by the Bullets to get the lead back to 13.
The Bullets cut it to 11 on a layup by Steve Lingenfelter with a minute left in the half, but Abdul-Jabbar made another sky hook. After a missed shot by the Bullets, Jamaal Wilkes scored on a fast break at the buzzer on an assist from Nixon and the Lakers held a 61-46 lead.
Los Angeles made 60 percent of its shots in the half and had 20 assists.
The Bullets trailed, 89-70, entering the fourth period, and it got only worse from that point.