1983-84 Boston Celtics
The final tuneup proved to be the highlight of the Celtics' 1983-84 exhibition schedule. Returning to this fertile land that yielded Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn and others, the Celtics overcame a 12-point third-quarter deficit and beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 102-100, at the Centrum last night.
The victory completed a four-game exhibition sweep against one of the NBA's premier teams. Make no mistake: Both teams played this one for keeps, and with the best 10 players on the floor, the Celtics took it away from LA. Knowing that last night's preseason finale was beamed back to the city of smoggy angels, Laker coach Pat Riley obviously decided it was time for the Lakers to play like . . . the Lakers.
The Celtics led by 11 early in the second quarter, but trailed by 12 early in the third. Boston spent the rest of the evening trying to catch up with Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and the rest of the LA greyhounds. It wasn't easy. The Lakers led, 81-72, after three. Then, at the start of the fourth, the Celtics ripped off seven straight on a jumper by Quinn Buckner, a three-pointer by Larry Bird and a hook by Kevin McHale. It was the start of a 19-4 run that boosted the Green to a 91-85 lead with 6:28 left.
Let the record show that all this was accomplished with backup guards Buckner and Danny Ainge on the floor. Making key steals and shooting with new confidence, Buckner played one of his best games ever in a Celtics uniform. He and Ainge bothered the Lakers and fed the tree-top trio of larry Bird, Robert Parish and McHale.
The Celtics led by one, 94-93, when time was called with 3:34 left. Two free throws by Jamaal Wilkes put LA back ahead, but Ainge answered with a rainbow bomb and McHale followed with a three-point play to give the Celts a 99-95 lead with 1:28 left. Magic fired one in to cut it to 99-97 and, after an offensive charge on Bird, Abdul-Jabbar scored (on a Parish goaltend) to tie it at 99. With 27 seconds left, Bird banked one in from the right side off a drive, and the Lakers called time. The best they could get was two free throws by James Worthy; he made the first but missed the second, and Parish rebounded. Parish hit his first to make it 102-100. The Chief missed his second and Magic got the rebound and called time with five seconds left. On the final play, Magic went to the corner and fired a bomb. It hit the back rim and fell into Parish's hands. Ballgame.
For the second straight game, Dennis Johnson and Gerald Henderson started in the backcourt for the Celtics. They appear to be coach K. C. Jones' choices to start the season opener against the Pistons Friday night in Pontiac, Mich. Riley, meanwhile, opened with Abdul-Jabbar in the middle for the first time this fall, and it was clear the Lakers meant business. The Celtics held LA to 14 points in the first quarter. Both teams appeared to be having trouble with the Centrum rims, which were out of alignment during warmups. Boston hit eight of 24 in the period, compared with LA's six of 21, and struck often enough to take a 23-14 lead into the second quarter.
The most emotional moment of the first 12 minutes came when Abdul-Jabbar's backup, Swen Nater, unleased some elbows as he was fouled by Buckner. After the whistle, Buckner shoved Nater slightly, and the two exchanged words when the period ended. The Celtics pushed their lead to 11 (25-14) before the Lakers roared back early in the second quarter. Running at every opportunity, Cooper and Byron Scott brought LA back, and the Lakers led, 49-43, at intermission. Red Auerbach reports no news in the effort to find a team for John Schweitz.
Schweitz is with his agent, Ron Grinker, in Cincinnati, and the Celtics have until Tuesday to officially place him on waivers. The Celtics are still talking with Utah and Cleveland . . . Meanwhile, Winfred King, who'll be the final man cut, did not dress last night because of his chronically sore shoulder, which popped out again in the third quarter of Friday night's game in Hartford . . . Does it make you feel better to know that Ainge's $1000 fine in the Tree Rollins' Love-At-First-Bite incident has been reduced to $500? . . . The Celtics have the day off and will resume workous at Hellenic College tomorrow morning .