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Lakers' Worthy says his sprained ankle feels better

Los Angeles Lakers forward James Worthy said his sprained left ankle felt better Saturday, but he would not speculate whether he would be at full strength today for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. "I'm taking it day by day. It is the type of injury that responds best to rest," Worthy said.

Worthy, who is expected to start, shot 3-of-12 and scored just eight points in the Lakers' clinching 91-90 victory Thursday night over the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals.

Considered one of the team's best defenders, Worthy is expected to guard Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. If his ankle does not respond to treatment, it could be a long series for Worthy and the Lakers.

"I felt all along that Pippen would be the key for the Bulls," Worthy said. "You know Michael (Jordan) is going to get his. But Pippen is really playing well now."

A North Carolina reunion

The NBA Finals are a reunion for Jordan and Laker forwards Sam Perkins and Worthy, who led North Carolina to the 1982 NCAA title with a 63-62 victory over Georgetown.

"It's great to play against those guys," Jordan said. "I'm looking forward to it. I know Perkins is a little bit more hungry than James because he hasn't won (an NBA title), and he's in the same situation that I'm in."

Who will North Carolina coach Dean Smith root for?

"Coach Smith should be proud," Perkins said. "I don't know who he's going to be rooting for, but it's going to be hard for him."

Worthy downplayed the reunion.

"We see each other all the time and the fact that we're in the championship series is nothing different than when we see each other during the season."


The last team to make its first trip to the NBA Finals, as the Bulls are doing, was the 1981 Houston Rockets. The last team to win in its first trip to the Finals was the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers. Chicago has won 15 straight home playoff games, going back to the last game of the 1989 Eastern Conference finals. The agent for Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson called the Bulls for tickets. According to a Chicago ticket broker, the going rate for $28 mezzanine seats is $400 to $500, with $16 balcony seats bringing $100. Seats in the first 10 rows are selling for as much as $1,000.

_ Information from Times staff writer John Harris and Times wire services was used in this report.