They call Stan Albeck "Stanley Screamer," but maybe he's really Stanley Schemer.
The San Antonio Spurs' coach is a noisy critic of referees during games, but he gave his team a quiet, subtle message Wednesday night that may have given it the confidence to defeat Los Angeles, 117-112.
The Lakers, who led the Western Conference finals, three games to one, perhaps had been thinking about when they would leave to play Philadelphia in the first game of the NBA championships. They were scheduled to take a vote after Wednesday night's game about whether they would stay in Philadelphia or come home between Game 1 Sunday and Game 2 Thursday.
Los Angeles newspapers were treating the Spurs-Lakers series as if it were over and Albeck seemed resigned to defeat as he spoke to reporters.
But he told his team something else--that the Lakers might be overconfident.
"We talked about it," he told reporters after the Spurs' victory.
"Everyone was making arrangements for Philly. It was perfectly natural with a 3-1 lead, but it was still a distraction to them.
"These athletes are so finely tuned, the littlest thing can throw them off. And if the Lakers aren't totally focused, you've got a chance against them."
The curly-haired Albeck, looking dapper in a blazer and tie, paused and grinned.
"I only know what I read in the papers," he said.
The Spurs extended the series to a sixth game to be played in San Antonio Friday (WDVM-TV-9, 11:30 p.m., delayed). A seventh game, if necessary, will be played in Los Angeles Sunday. On the whole, the Lakers would rather be in Philadelphia.
"After two wins down there (in San Antonio), everyone was packing their bags, ready to go to Hawaii," said Lakers Coach Pat Riley. "We can't look at it like that."
"Our mental preparation needs to be sharper," said Lakers guard Magic Johnson. "We need to be more involved in the game. We never got the ball down low, and they went right to the rim every time."
As if to lull the Lakers, the Spurs fell behind, 45-35, in the second quarter. Forward Gene Banks, limping noticeably on a sprained right ankle, scored one basket. Center Artis Gilmore returned from a rest and the Spurs scored seven straight points to cut the margin to 45-44 before the Lakers reinserted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into the lineup.
The Lakers led, 100-99, in the fourth quarter when San Antonio scored 10 of the next 11 points. The Lakers pulled within 113-110 with 2:27 remaining, but Gilmore and Mike Mitchell made two free throws each.
The Spurs overcame another poor shooting night (eight for 24) by George Gervin. Gervin scored 20 points and is averaging only 22.2 for the series, but he had lots of help: Mitchell had 26 points, Gilmore 25 and 14 rebounds and Johnny Moore 23 and 17 assists. Banks had 16.
Abdul-Jabbar, unstoppable on his hook, finished with 30 for the Lakers and Jamaal Wilkes had 27.
Earlier this week, Wilkes had talked about the importance of winning Wednesday, so the Lakers could rest and prepare for the start of the finals in Philadelphia.
As they traveled to San Antonio Thursday, Wilkes knew he had to stop thinking about Philadelphia.
"We've got to beat San Antonio so we can go to Philly," he said.