8.17.2010

Larry v. Magic: Game 11 (part 5)

1984 NBA Finals Game 4

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary


Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Media Coverage



Celtics Death was Greatly Exaggerated

Cancel the funeral. The Lakers simply will not let the Celtics die. The NBA championship series is tied at two games apiece because the Lakers have once again given away a game, eerily in almost the exact same manner.

The gritty Celtics, who rebounded strongly from a 33-point humiliation last Sunday, pulled out a 129-125 overtime victory in the Forum Wednesday night. As happened in the first Boston victory, the Lakers blew a seemingly insurmountable lead at the end of overtime -- this time five points with 57 seconds to play, as opposed to two points and possession with 18 seconds left the first time.

As happened in the first loss, the Lakers frittered away a number of chances to win in overtime. As happened in the first game, goats quickly became heroes and vice versa on both sides.

Give the Celtics credit. After trailing by 10 at halftime, they got back in the game against a clearly superior team the only way they could. With muscle. Aided by a no-autopsy, no-foul philosophy employed by the officials, they banged the racehorse Lakers around so fiercely, several near brawls erupted. But in the process, the Lakers got out of synch, their fearsome fast break occurring infrequently instead of in those 10-, 12- and 14-point killer spurts.

Larry Bird had said he and the Celtics played like "sissies' on Sunday. Asked if it was an attempt to psyche his teammates up, Bird smiled and said, "I certainly didn't say it for you guys (the press)."

And the Celtics banged the boards, which they failed to do Sunday. They had a 52-46 edge in rebounds, including a huge 27-12 margin off the offensive board. Bird had nine of his 21 rebounds on the offensive end. That translated into a lot of second shots. Though the Lakers outshot them, 58.8 percent to 43.2, the Celtics took 26 more shots.

Then came that frantic finish and the goat/hero transformations. The Lakers' Magic Johnson finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists -- his second straight "triple-double." But with the score tied at 113 and 16 seconds left in regulation, he dribbled it down to four seconds, then had a pass intercepted by Robert Parish.

In the Celtics' first victory, Magic dribbled away the final 13 seconds of regulation time with the score tied. Once again, the Lakers failed to get a shot off with the game on the line.

Then with 35 seconds to play in overtime and the score tied at 123, Magic missed two free throws. He's a marvel, no question, but critical mistakes by him have cost the Lakers dearly in two games, allowing the Celtics back into a series that should have ended 4-0.

Smaller horns are worn by Magic's teammate, James Worthy, who had 30 points, including 10 of the Lakers' 12 in overtime. He made 14 of 17 shots. He was superb. But he also missed a free throw with 10 seconds to play that would have tied the score at 125, and his attempted pass to Magic with the Lakers trailing, 127-124, was intercepted by M.L. Carr, who took it the other way for a stuff that iced the game.

Weird. As was the case with Magic, a few critical mistakes late again negated an otherwise brilliant effort. It was Worthy's foolish cross-court pass in the closing seconds of the Lakers' first loss that was picked off by Gerald Henderson who drove for the basket that sent the game into overtime. Who says history doesn't repeat?

And how sweet it was for the seldom-used Carr to hit the clincher. In the second quarter, Magic complained that Cedric Maxwell had grabbed him and prevented him from going for a loose ball. Johnson and the Celtics exchanged words, and Carr immediately headed for Magic. Shrewd. If he and Magic fight and they both get ejected, who do you think comes out ahead?

Anyway, the crowd booed Carr at every opportunity afterward. They booed in the third quarter when Kevin McHale tackled Kurt Rambis to prevent a fast-break layup, a clothes-line job that almost touched off a bench-clearing brawl. They booed a few minutes later when Bird fouled Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and those two superstars nearly went at it. But the Celtics had the last laugh. They stopped the Lakers from running and slowly crept back into the game and the series.

But perhaps the happiest Celtic of all was guard Dennis Johnson, who had hit only 13 of 38 shots going into the game, played only 14 minutes in Sunday's rout and saw the Lakers outscore his team, 48-16, in the limited minutes he was out there.

CBS broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn called him "a dog" after the game, and the soft-spoken DJ naturally resented it.

"I didn't play well on Sunday, and that's uncharacteristic of me," he said. "But Tommy had no right to be saying that. In the Milwaukee series, he was giving me high praise. Now, just a week later, he's accusing me of dogging it. Maybe he was speaking too fast."

Maybe? DJ had 22 points and 13 assists Wednesday night, and it was his two free throws with 10 seconds left that gave the Celtics a 127-124 lead. That meant the Lakers had to go for three, but they never got the chance because Carr picked off Worthy's pass and gave the Celtics life and the home-court advantage.

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