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8.19.2010

Larry v. Magic: Game 11 (part 9)

1984 NBA Finals Game 4

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary

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

WHERE'S THE MAGIC? - DOWN THE STRETCH, LAKERS LOOK MORTAL

And now, a moment of stunned silence for the Los Angeles Lakers.

They originally thought they might be flying cross country to wrap up an NBA championship in Boston tomorrow night.

Instead, the Lakers are wondering where some of the Magic went after a 129-125 overtime loss to the Celtics in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series last night.

Magic Johnson scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and contributed 17 assists, but the Lakers' 6-9 versatile All-Star guard disappeared when the game was on the line.

Johnson committed two deadly sins. First, he attempted to make a wing pass to forward James Worthy with the score tied at 113-113 and four seconds to play in the fourth quarter, but had it picked off by Celtics center Robert Parish, denying the Lakers a chance to win in regulation.

Then, he missed a pair of free throws that could have broke open a 123-123 tie with 35 seconds to go in overtime.

This has been a strange championship series for the Magic man.

Before last night's game, Johnson looked like a logical candidate to win his third MVP award in the championship series.

But Johnson also has been at the epicenter of both Laker collapses in a series that is unexpectedly tied at two games apiece.

Just last Thursday, during the Celtics' 124-121 overtime victory in Game 2 at Boston Garden, Johnson apparently lost track of time at the end of regulation, handling the ball for the last 13 seconds without getting off a shot. Johnson looked inside to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but decided not to make the pass into traffic.

Last night, Johnson was faced with the same situation. He rolled the dice, but threw box cars.

''This is a low point for me, there's no question about it,'' he said. ''When you miss two free throws, that's something you know you can't get over.

''We ran the same play we wanted to run for Kareem in Boston, and that's why I didn't want to throw it. I knew I shouldn't have thrown it this time, but I was going to try, and it didn't work.

''When a man is overplaying like that, you know you shouldn't throw it, but you want to get a shot off, so I tried it.''

That's OK, Magic, they say confessions are good for the soul. And the Lakers are tortured souls after letting Boston, a team with far less raw talent, climb back in the series.

The Lakers, who squeezed 32 points from Abdul-Jabbar and got 30 from the exciting Worthy, shot 58 percent and ran their transition game flawlessly. They led by as many as 14 points in the first half and had a 113-108 lead with just 56 seconds to go. Then, the roof caved in.

''I think, up by five, and then letting them come back and tie, that affects me more that the pass,'' Johnson said.

'That's what I was really down about. And I can't be like that, because we had another five minutes to win the game and I think my head was still there, instead of playing for the moment.''

What hurt most in that catastrophic final minute of regulation was that the Lakers lost Abdul-Jabbar to personal fouls.

Abdul-Jabbar was whistled for a loose ball foul, his sixth, with 16 seconds left. Most writers thought that Parish would be shooting, but Bird stepped to the line and calmly made a pair of free throws.

''I wasn't sure who I fouled,'' a confused Abdul-Jabbar said.

Abdul-Jabbar was not even sure if he committed a personal.

''I think the game got out of hand,'' he said. ''There were certain scapegoats out there.''

''What about the officials?'' a writer said, persisting.

''Well, let's just say there were scapegoats.''

Abdul-Jabbar, who shot 12-for-25, caught the brunt of the Celtics' revitalized physical approach. Boston served notice it wasn't about to let the Lakers get off without a fight.

And one almost broke out when when Boston forward Kevin McHale horse-collared Lakers forward Kurt Rambis, body-slamming him when Rambis attempted to score on a breakaway layup in the third quarter.

Rambis got up and attempted to go after McHale, but was restrained by the powerful Worthy, preventing what could have been an ugly scene.

Boston can be expected to continue that physical style of play as the series continues.

''If we had made a lot of our free throws and other things down the stretch, then things would not have come down to the last seconds as they did,'' Abdul-Jabbar said.

Speaking of free throws, the Lakers hit just 13 for 22 in the second half and overtime. Not only did Magic miss a pair, but Worthy missed one of two when he had a chance to tie the game at 125 with 10 seconds to play in overtime.

Johnson kept replaying his misses over and over again.

''I love to be in that situation, because that's what I'm good at,'' he said. ''That's where I want to be. I'm still thinking about it.

''Both of them were the same. I thought they were both good, but they both hit the back of the rim.''

Suddenly, the Celtics have the homecourt advantage. Suddenly, the light bulb has gone on over K.C. Jones's head and he is playing Dennis Johnson on Magic, making Magic work a little harder for his points.

Magic got another triple-double - 20 points, 17 assists, 11 rebounds - but this time, he got off only five shots and scored just eight points in the last 25 minutes.

''We're going to bounce back, because it's only 2-2,'' Johnson promised. ''It's not like we're dead or anything, like they have the lead or anything. It's just something else has happened again. You know, it's not like we can't correct the mistakes we're making, because it's not Boston that's hurting us, it's ourselves.''

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