DENVER, DEC. 10 -- The Los Angeles Lakers have won 10 of their last 12 games. But "Showtime" looks more like dinner theater these days. Mike Dunleavy's system puts a premium on Magic Johnson, Sam Perkins and James Worthy posting up, in contrast to the more improvisational style of the Pat Riley years.

"We're driving that ball inside," Johnson said. "You're going to have to deal with us right there. That's where we want to be. We want to take advantage of the people we have. When you have James, myself, Sam, that's three guys that can post. And if you leave somebody, Terry {Teagle} and Byron {Scott} can burn you. We want our offense to start inside to out."

Johnson said he was only slightly concerned about the team's poor start. "I didn't have doubt because we were in every game," he said. "Doubt is when you're getting blown out. That's when you say, 'Oh shoot, maybe we don't have it.' But we were in all of those games. We just needed to know each other. We didn't have any flow. Other teams were flowing and we weren't."

Another Change of Pace

The mutiny against Coach Dick Versace appears to have been averted for the moment in Indiana, where the Pacers came through last week with a couple of big home wins. But the Pacers swing west this week, and after visiting Portland last night they remain the only team in the league without win on the road. . . .

Milwaukee's success at home even has Coach Del Harris puzzled. With their 11th win at Bradley Center last night, and Detroit's loss to San Antonio, the Bucks are the league's only unbeaten team at home. "We don't have a home-court advantage here," he said. "We have a quiet crowd here."

Happiness in Utah

The Jazz is rolling. Utah pounded Washington, Detroit, the Lakers and the Clippers in succession last week to move, quietly, within percentage points of first place in the Midwest Division. Jeff Malone exceeded 20 points in each win after languishing around 16 per game the first month, and last night scored 43.

"I've definitely picked up my game," the ex-Bullet said. "We're doing the things that get some fast-break baskets. That's the fun part about it. Averaging 24 points a game is great, but I'm playing on a team where I don't have to worry about it. I scored 13 the other night and {John} Stockton took over. That's the way it should be played."

Nuggets Settle Down

Surprise. Denver has modified its defensive system after hemorrhaging points the first month of the year. Though Denver still is trying to get shots within seconds of getting the ball, the Nuggets aren't pressing full court anymore.

Coach Paul Westhead "hasn't made that public yet," a league scout said. "But you'll notice the scores aren't in the 160s and 170s anymore. Now they're in the 130s and 120s." Usually, that is, and the Nuggets have been much more competitive as a result, winning for the first time on the road last week. . . .

The rest of the league was stunned by Phoenix's acquisition of Xavier McDaniel for Eddie Johnson and two No. 1. draft choices. Seattle President Bob Whitsitt had been asking around the league for weeks about McDaniel's value, and no one lowballed him that much.

"It was a great trade for Phoenix," Magic Johnson said. "They had no real post threat. They had to rely on just shooting, shooting, shooting. With X, they have a real post threat as well as a shooter at the same time. They got two in one." . . .

Charlotte is more than respectable now; witness its 8-7 season start before subsiding. The Hornets found a real backup for Muggsy Bogues in first-round pick Kendall Gill. Armon Gilliam and Johnny Newman provide scoring and rebounding up front. And Rex Chapman may be becoming an NBA player after all.

The Hornets' next win will be their ninth. They didn't win their ninth game until mid-February last season.

Clippers in Flux

Ron Harper made his first practice for the Clippers last week since going down with a severe knee injury last season. It was practice in name only; he took no contact, just running up and down the floor, taking a few shots. Los Angeles is hoping for a January return.

In the interim, the Clippers have occasionally gone with three forwards, with Ken Norman or Danny Manning going to the backcourt.

"We can play the three of them up front also," Coach Mike Schuler said. "The thing that does is it puts you at a little bit of a disadvantage when you have to guard somebody like a Karl Malone. Mark Eaton {Malone's giant Utah teammate} is not really a good gauge of that. You have no problems going small against him. But a true {Houston's Akeem} Olajuwon type, it puts somebody at an advantage defensively."

The Clippers are also quietly inquiring whether anyone is interested in Manning. They like rookie Loy Vaught as a rebounder and Norman as a defender. And Charles Smith is having an excellent all-around season. Gary Grant has also been dangled, with no takers. . . . The Hornets can't get more than a second-round pick for Dell Curry.

King of No Swing

Sacramento player personnel director Jerry Reynolds was sporting a bow tie last week, and he was asked after the Kings beat the Bullets if he would continue the new sartorial look. "I got a hunch that didn't have much to do with it," he said. "To tell the truth, I wore this because I figure people won't swing at a guy with a bow tie." . . .

Atlanta broke its losing streak, but the Hawks are still shopping John Battle, Kevin Willis and Moses Malone. It seems unlikely anyone would want to hook onto Malone's age and salary, but one team executive said: "Moses Malone can still give you 20-25 minutes a night and get nine or 10 rebounds. The problem is if anyone can fit him in under the {salary} cap."