The Lakers entered last night's game with their fans bragging about them as one of the greatest teams ever. But Celtics fans left the game savoring a victory from a team that may soon work its way into the ALL-TIME-GREAT-TEAMS debate.
The Celts won, 110-95, and the game wasn't even that close. Boston led by 23 in the fourth quarter and when the carnage was complete, none of the 14,890 could be heard mumbling, "Gee, I wish I was in New Orleans tonight."
Larry Bird (21 points 12 rebounds, seven assists) and Dennis Johnson (22, seven and six) led the Celts to a 16-point first half-lead, but it was new weapon Bill Walton who took over in the final period when the C's ran away with it.
Walton hit five of six floor shots and finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 blocks and four standing ovations in 16 minutes. In the Celtic 1985-86 game plan, he is supposed to be the difference in this rivalry, and hoop fans from coast to coast will no doubt tout the genius of Red Auerbach when they read this box score today.
Regular-season victories don't establish much of anything, but this one should stifle the theory that the Lakers won't be tested this spring. It should also put a lid on those "best ever" stories about the Los Angeles team. LA has eight losses -- same as Boston. They have to worry about being the best in 1985-86 before they are compared with the best ever.
The Lakers led for only 50 seconds as the Celts won for the sixth straight time. Boston has won 10 of 11 since losing five of nine in December.
"They were certainly the better team tonight," admitted Kareem Abdul- Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar (3 for 14, 12 points) left his skyhook at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and James Worthy was invisible (5-15, 12 points). LA hummed the Big Chill soundtrack to the tune of 39 percent from the floor (worst of the year), and compiled a season-low 17 assists. Magic Johnson had 15 points, 6 assists and 1 rebound. Need we go on?
"They played excellent team defense," reasoned Abdul-Jabbar. "They blocked the middle, there was no room inside, and we didn't hit our outside shots."
Robert Parish, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds, did a particularly good job turning Abdul-Jabbar away from the basket.
The Celtics rode an 8-0 streak to a 15-7 lead in the first four minutes. Danny Ainge had the final four of the spurt, including a fast-break layup after stealing a Maurice Lucas pass.
LA responded with a heat-seeking 14-4 run and took a 21-19 lead on a three- point play by Lucas. K.C. Jones called time and replaced Kevin McHale with Walton. McHale has been hobbled by a sore left Achilles and had his worst offensive game (3-14, 12 points) in over a month.
McHale's defense was another story. "James (Worthy) was neutralized," said Lakers coach Pat Riley. "He had to shoot over a long arm."
Walton started a 7-0 run with a lefty hook over Kareem. Free throws by Bird and McHale powered the Celts to a 31-25 lead at the end of one. Ainge scored nine in the period, and LA never led again.
The Lakers missed 10 of 12 at the start of the second and DJ drove the Green to 10 straight points and a 47-31 lead. Parish scored on a dunk after handling an impossible Bird pass through a sea of legs, then DJ scored six straight on a tap, a drive and a jumper.
The Lakers cut it to eight by halftime, but Bird came out bombing in the third period and the Celts got the lead back to 13. It was then that Walton started to make his huge presense felt.
The final hoop of the third was a rugged follow-stuff by Walton. It was 88-75 and Celtic fans were chanting "Beat LA."
Then Walton took over the game. He hit an eight-foot turnaround banker to push the lead back to 16, then blocked a shot by A.C. Green which led to a Jerry Sichting transition jumper. Boston led, 95-78, with 10:04 left. Walton had six blocks when Bird checked in with 9:46 left. A Walton tap and free throw made it 98-79 with 8:10 left. There was one more block (a Mike McGee shot), then Walton came off with 7:55 showing and the Garden exploded.
A DJ jumper put the Celts ahead by 21 and the rout was on. Boston led, 102-79, with 5:15 left when Bird got his curtain call.
The rest was garbage.
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