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August 2, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 7: NBA playoffs shift to the Mack amidst L.A. riots

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

Emotions were mixed for the Los Angeles Lakers as they headed east for a 'home' playoff game on May 3, 1992.

Trailing 2-1 in a best-of-five first round series with the top-seeded Portland Trailblazers, Game Four was moved from riot-riddled L.A. to Las Vegas. Both teams sat around between games Three and Four while Los Angeles burned in the wake of the verdict from the Rodney King beating trial.

Lakers veteran A.C. Green showed up to Las Vegas wearing a brand new T-shirt which read 'South Central'. Teammate Byron Scott certainly didn't hold back his feelings before the game in the Thomas & Mack Center.

"I almost feel ashamed to say I'm from Los Angeles," Scott, now the head coach of the New Orleans Hornets, said at at the time. "There are a lot better ways to show your frustration than by going out and beating up people and burning down buildings. You have to sit down and evaluate what's going on and think logically about ways to make a change.

"Burning buildings and pulling people out of their cars is not going to do anything to help the situation."

To that point in the season, the Lakers had already endured so much just to make the playoffs. Before the season, Earvin 'Magic' Johnson announced that he'd tested positive for HIV and would retire. Stars James Worthy and Sam Perkins were knocked out with injuries, and the Lakers needed a come-from-behind overtime victory over the crosstown rival Clippers on the season's final day just to make the playoffs.

The Lakers needed yet another comeback just to force Game Four. In Game Three, the Lakers squeaked out a 121-119 overtime win, and a day later, it was announced that the series would shift to Las Vegas.

A crowd of 15,478 turned out to see the first non-exhibition game played in the Mack since the Utah Jazz took down the Kansas City Kings, 123-120, on Dec. 9, 1984.

It had a similar feel to a regular Lakers home game. Jack Nicholson and Arsenio Hall were not courtside, but Superfan Dyan Cannon was. Also seated on Gucci Row were boxers Terry Norris and Meldrick Taylor.

The game was hardly as glamorous as the build-up. Portland steam-rolled the defending Western Conference champs, 102-76. Just a couple of weeks later, the Blazers would fall victim to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.

Clyde 'The Glide' Drexler led the way for Portland with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Cliff Robinson added 14 points and six assists off the bench. Sedale Threatt scored a team-high 17 points for the Lakers.

"It would've been even sweeter if they had Magic, Worthy and Perkins out there," Drexler said afterwards. "It almost seems a bit hollow, but a victory's a victory."

The Lakers, on the other hand, felt far from slighted by the change of scenery for a 'home' game. Instead, they looked at where they'd wound up when it was all said and done as an accomplishment of sorts.

"All season long, it's been one disaster after another," Scott added. "That's the way our whole year has been. The fact that we made the playoffs and took them to four games is a real credit to our team.

"It's strange because this is the first year I've been out of the playoffs this early. But we never lacked effort or desire. We're a team that really cares about each other genuinely, so it makes it easier to band together."

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