1984 NBA Finals Game 4
Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary
Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Media Coverage
Celts Rise from the Dead . . . Again
The Los Angeles Lakers hadn't issued an ultimatum as much as they had simply offered the Boston Celtics a dare: Catch us if you can.
The Lakers, having swept through Game 3 of the NBA Championship Series by an outrageous 33 points, did everything last night but offer their downtrodden opponents cigarettes and blindfolds. They didn't prepare a game plan, they honed a guillotine.
But by the end of the remarkable evening at the Forum, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was left holding his goggles, Magic Johnson was reduced to being just another humanly fallible magician, and the bloom was off young star James Worthy, who already had been gathering support as the tournament's Most Valuable Player. The Celtics, evening this best-of-seven series at 2-2, took what had looked suspiciously like a torn curtain and shrouded the Lakers in darkness.
The great escape will be remembered as a 129-125 overtime victory, setting a startling stage for Game 5 tomorrow night in Boston and Game 6 back here in Inglewood Sunday afternoon. ''We came to Hollywood and got caught up in doing as the Hollywood people do,'' said Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell. ''We fell into the Hollywood system, and it showed in the way we played Sunday. We sat in the sun instead of the (Boston) floods, and played exactly like that.''
If this was Hollywood, it was sweetly appropriate that Robert Parish finally made an appearance in an outstanding supporting role, contributing 25 points, 12 rebounds and a crucial steal that stripped the Lakers of an opportunity to win with four seconds remaining in regulation.
The best cameo role, needless to say, belonged to M.L. Carr, who checked in with 16 seconds left in overtime and, nine seconds later, stole Worthy's sidecourt inbounds pass. What could the Lakers say, that the screenplay needs work? Abdul-Jabbar scored a game-high 32 points, but fouled out with 16 seconds left in regulation. Magic Johnson unfurled a triple-double (20 points, 17 assists, 11 rebounds), then threw away the ball at 0:04. And Worthy scored 30 points, hit 14 of 17 shots from the floor, then missed one of two free throws with 10 seconds to go in OT, blowing a chance to forge a 125-125 tie.
''This thing is now 2-2,'' said Pat Riley, the Lakers' coach. ''It's turning into the series that everyone said it was going to be. This is a game of mistakes, this is a world of mistakes. Just look at the front page every day, there are mistakes everywhere. The ones that are made out there (on the court) are magnified more. We are under a microscope, and that's the way things have to be.''
Funny that Riley should mention the front page. The Celtics had been busy checking the sports pages out here. They were beginning to wonder if they had died and no one had informed them. ''You guys wrote us all off,'' said guard Dennis Johnson, who played 50 of a possible 53 minutes, scored 22 points, handed out 14 assists and - for the first time in the series - was assigned to defend against Magic. ''We tried to explain that Sunday had just been a bad game, that we don't play like that all the time. But we read it all, and then we got a little more ready to play tonight.''
He carefully included himself in the scenario, dropping in two important free throws that gave the Celtics a 127-124 advantage with 10 seconds left in OT. ''Today was my son Dwayne's fourth birthday,'' he said. ''I hit them for him. I'm keeping the wrist bands and shoes for him, and someday I'll tell him about it.''
It was a game that remained at a fierce, crunching level, and occasionally erupted beyond that. Kevin McHale, trying to stop a Kurt Rambis breakaway, body-slammed the Lakers' forward. And Bird, trying to dodge Abdul-Jabbar's swinging elbows, finally paused to tell the Lakers' captain about it.
Bird, meanwhile, was delivering 29 points and a game-high 21 rebounds, battling through a nightmarish 9-for-24 shooting performance. ''I don't know if the fans came down as hard on us as the press did,'' Bird said, ''but we know we can come back from anything. The leprechaun is still around.''
He's probably right, because the Celtics won with D. Johnson shooting 9-for-23 and McHale 3-for-13. ''We're still the underdog, until we get up a game,'' Bird said. ''Friday night will be a test of emotion and heart. We basically lucked out in two games. We stole Game 2 (in Boston) , tonight we lucked out. We're lucky to be alive. ''We still haven't played what I'd call a Celtics game. Tonight was the first time we came close. But if we play that hard and that physical, usually we're in it.''
The Celtics pounded their way to a 27-12 advantage off the offensive boards, launched 111 shots - 27 more than the Lakers - and hit 31 of 38 free throws. ''This is the second time something like this has happened, one of those games that could give anybody a heart attack,'' said K.C. Jones, the Celtics' coach. ''We scrambled like hell trying to get our offense a little smoother in the second half. LA came out in the first half and tried to put us away. We were down 10 (at halftime) and should've been down 20. We made a conscious effort to be more aggressive. The way we had been playing, (we could've) called in the hounds, put out the fire, cause the hunt was over.''
Instead, the hunt is starting all over again.
''We lost our homecourt advantage,'' said Riley, ''and now it's the best two out of three. I'm looking forward to the next contest and to winning a championship, but no one will hand it to you on a silver platter. I like it when there's not a lot of time between games. That way, we don't have time to sit around and read how great we are.''
The Celtics had been reading exactly the opposite. But assistant coach Chris Ford recalls reading something else into the situation. ''Immediately after Sunday's game,'' Ford said, ''you could see guys becoming more determined. Then they had a couple of days to do nothing but sit around, and they began chomping at the bit. I knew that, even if we lost tonight, it wouldn't have been
an easy loss. Our guys weren't stung as much by what was said or written as they were by their own performance.
''Now neither team has an advantage. All we have is the possibility of two more games at home, but we only get the second one if there's a seventh game (next Tuesday) . And there's only a seventh game if we do something to help ourselves before then.'' If the Celtics were bleary-eyed from reading their grim notices, they might be worse off by the time they get back on the practice floor. They left right after last night's game, choosing to fly all night to Atlanta, where they planned to connect through to Boston, getting them in sometime after 9 this morning.
But they preferred the red-eye flight to the gloom and doom of printer's ink. ''We never wrote ourselves off,'' said McHale, who missed a followup at 0:02 that could have won the game in regulation. ''That's partly because we don't put a lot of credence in what the media says. A lot of people who write and talk about us don't know the game. The one thing we knew was, whatever happened Sunday, we weren't going to stink up the gym again.''
''I may not play another minute in this series, but what happened tonight was gratifying,'' Carr said. ''Being written off? I was written off three years ago. The team? Everybody said LA was the favorite in six, LA was the favorite in seven. Well, we want it to go seven. If we get to that point, anything can happen, and from Day 1 that I got here I believed in the Celtics. And I still do. Against anybody.''