6.06.2008

The Chief Disappoints in Game 1 of 84 Finals

They were heat seeking missiles cloaked in royal purple and gold.

Led by the Goggled Great One, who has controlled your smiles and tears for so many years, the Los Angeles Lakers vaporized the sluggish Celtics with a 19-3 first-quarter run, put back a noble third-quarter surge by the K.C.A.C., and hung on for a 115-109 victory in Game 1 of basketball's planetary playoff.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left his migraine in the Copley Marriott and scored 32 points (on 12-of-17 shooting), 13 of which came in the first quarter when the allegedly exhausted Lakers bolted to a preposterous 30-12 lead.

Meanwhile, Robert Parish again had fans asking, "Where's the Chief?" Parish, who is averaging an embarrassing 11.2 points in his last five games, appeared to be on Neptune for most of the afternoon. He was 2 for 7 from the floor and 1 for 4 from the line in the crucial first half; he briefly came alive after intermission, then fouled out with 7:23 left and the Celtics trailing by five.

"We can't win without Robert Parish," noted Cedric Maxwell. "For us to win, we can't have a scoring difference of 23 to 5 (Abdul-Jabbar vs. Parish in the first half). When he goes well, we all go well; and he's not scoring enough points. He's not getting the shots he got during the regular season."

Parish's latest no-show wasn't the only disappointment for the Celtics. Larry Bird wore a 42-extra-long overcoat named Michael Cooper all day long. Bird missed 10 of 17 floor shots and had only two baskets in the first half.

LA's masterful first quarter set the tone for Boston's first home loss in more than two months (March 23 vs. New Jersey).

Boston led, 4-3, when Magic Johnson ignited the 19-3 surge (including 11 in a row) that carried the Lakers to a 22-7 mid-quarter lead.

Los Angeles sagged down low, watched Boston miss outside shots (the Celtic guards were 15 for 40), got the rebounds, and ran. Johnson (18 points, 10 assists) scored on a four-on-one to make it 13-6, then James Worthy stole a Bird (six turnovers) pass and went in alone for a jam to make it 15-6. Bird missed two shots on the baseline, and Kurt Rambis was fouled as he scored on a followup; the free throw made it 18-6. When Parish missed a turnaround, Magic made a 19-footer over Gerald Henderson (a day-long mismatch) and it was 20-6. Sounds of silence filled the usually raucous Garden.

So much for The Jet Lag Theory. The Lakers had flown all day Saturday after winning Friday night in Phoenix, and it was assumed they would be tired.

Kevin McHale, who led the Celtics with 25 points, said, "I sat there wondering what the hell they'd be like Thursday with four days rest."

After Parish made one of two from the line, Magic went coast to coast to make it 22-7, and he alone had a 10-7 lead on the Celtics.

Abdul-Jabbar went to work on Parish and hit a skyhook to make it 30-12 with 3:16 left in the first.

LA shot 73 percent (16 for 22) in the first 12 minutes and led, 34-22, after one. "We made a statement," Laker coach Pat Riley said. "The first period was as good a period as we've ever played in a big game."

"That's the best I've ever seen a team run," admitted Bird. "We like to run, but there's no way we can run as good as they can."

"They threw caution to the wind," added Maxwell. "We were the team that sat back and read our press clippings and heard about how good we were."

Dennis Johnson (23 points) and McHale helped the Celtics claw back. They got it down to 10, but let Cooper hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer and trailed, 65-52, at intermission. Bird and Parish each had two field goals in the first half.

After Parish picked up his fourth foul early in the third, Abdul-Jabbar went to work and the Lakers bolted to a 19-point lead (73-54), their largest of the day.

While Worthy (12 of his 20 in the third) terrorized McHale, DJ and Bird (24 points, 14 rebounds) started hitting and the Celtics crept back. Boston got an unexpected lift from Scott Wedman (three baskets in the third quarter), and closed the quarter with a 14-3 run.

Bird put the exclamation point on the late-period burst with an at-the- buzzer three-pointer that cut it to 92-88 and shook the train station.

But the Celtics never got any closer. They lost their momentum early in the fourth. Bird, DJ and McHale missed shots and LA converted four consecutive fast-break baskets (two by rookie Byron Scott) to open up a 100-94 lead.

Parish was gone with 7:23 to play. With 2:35 showing, the Celtics trailed, 109-103, and DJ went to the line for two. He made one, and the Celtics got the ball back when McHale blocked a Bob McAdoo attempt. Leading a four-on-one, Maxwell put his head down and charged through Magic as he made a layup. Max was tagged with the foul and the basket was nullified.

McHale blocked two more McAdoo shots, but an ill-conceived drive by DJ was thwarted by Abdul-Jabbar, who fed Cooper for a breakaway jam and it was 111-104 with a minute left. Lights out.

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