The Once Dependable Lakers Are Dependable No Longer

The Los Angeles Lakers were the original Dallas Cowboys, the original San Francisco Giants, the original Chicago Black Hawks, the original Northeastern heavyweight crew. You could depend on them.

You could depend on Frank Selvy to rim a last-second jumper from the corner and force the seventh playoff game into overtime--an overtime that the Los Angeles Lakers would not win.

You could depend on them to reach the NBA finals year after year, and mysteriously, but unmistakably, lose to the Boston Celtics in the final minute of the seventh game. But you may not be able to depend on them any more.

Last night, the Lakers did everything right, and they did it at the best possible time. They took advantage of cold New York shooting at the start of the third period to expand a five-point halftime lead into a 20-point rout.

They remained cool, almost detached, when the Knickerbockers cut that lead to eight points, then to seven, with only minutes remaining in the game.

As rabid Madison Square Garden fans screeched DEE-fense. DEE-fense to spur New York into a ball-stealing frenzy. Jerry West calmly sunk a twenty-footer from the right side, and teammate Gail Goodrich followed with another basket moments later to rescue the Lakers from danger.

That's the way it was all game long, and it seems as though Los Angeles has made clutch ballplaying a habit. The Knicks, of course, were lacking a healthy Dave DeBusschere, but in the long run, it might not make any difference. The pendulum of fate may have swung towards the West Coast and it will be long, long overdue.