Larry v. Magic: Game 18
LAKERS GET SPLIT DECISION
CELTICS ON THE ROPES
The euphoria of Boston's Memorial Day Massacre vanished early in the evening. Led by a proud, 7-foot-2-inch center who has been part of America's hoop scene since 1963, the Los Angeles Lakers took charge early last night, roared to an 18-point halftime lead, and held off a late Boston rally. By the time the Celtics delivered their midnight confessions, LA had a 109-102 Game 2 victory and a 1-1 Garden split.
In other words, after all the giddy glory of Game 1, the Celtics are facing the situation they dreaded most - Boston's boys of summer settle into their hotel California tonight knowing that failure to win in the Forum means the end of a dream. Meanwhile, the Lakers go home with a mission accomplished.
Blame it on the big fella with the goggles. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a certified adult in a game dominated by youngsters, destroyed the Celtics with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 8 assists. He scored 22 points in the second half when the Lakers protected their lead. And all this came after Game 1 in which he had an embarrassing 12 points and three rebounds in a 34- point humiliation.
"He's the greatest player that ever lived," said Laker coach Pat Riley. "He was committed tonight. He knew he let his team down."
This was a night when the Lakers played superior defense, re-discovered their fast break (34 points off the break to Boston's seven), and outrebouned the Green, 49-37. The Celtics were held to a season-low offensive rebounds.
"The rebounding, for a team that can't rebound, was exceptional," said a sarcastic Riley.
Boston's first half could be summed up in one play: With his team trailing by 11, a fast-breaking Bird chose to feed Greg Kite rather than shoot late in the second period. The difficult pass was picked off and LA ripped off the final seven points of the half for its 18-point cushion.
All night long Bird was like Luis Tiant in Game 5 of the 1975 World Series. He had nothing, but he tried to lead his team by sheer force of will. He finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds but shot 9 of 21, had five turnovers and was no match for the Great Goggled One.
Both teams came out tossing bricks (LA guard Byron Scott missed his first four), but the Lakers dominated the boards and clawed to an 11-4 lead in the first five minutes. The Celtics were shooting .333 with three turnovers at that juncture.
It got worse after a timeout. Robert Parish (hobbled by an elbow to his lower back) hit a jumper, but the Lakers answered with three straight fast- break baskets, two after misses by Bird. LA led, 17-6. The Lakers pushed it to 21-8 before Bird or Kevin McHale were able to score.
"As soon as the game started, they knew they were in a game," noted Abdul-Jabbar.
"They came out and started with a vicious attack on the boards and created chaos when we had the ball," said K.C. Jones. "They totally outhustled us in the first quarter."
LA's lead was 28-14 when three Boston subs came in and helped Bird and Dennis Johnson to a quarter-closing 12-3 run. A DJ transtion jumper cut it to 31-26 at the end of one.
Scott Wedman scored on a back-door feed from Ray Williams to cut it to three at the start of the second. Then the Celtics started missing and LA started running. Before you could say "Michael Cooper," the Lakers led, 43-32. Cooper was on his way to a 22-point night in which he'd hit eight of nine floor shots.
The ubiquitous Magic Johnson (13 assists) did a great job finding the open man - and guarding Bird part of the time - and the Lakers' lead swelled to 53-38 on a free throw by Mitch Kupchak with 3:46 left in the half.
Ainge trimmed the lead to 11 when Bird made his dumb play. LA made the Celtics pay with three straight breakaways (two by Scott) and the Garden crowd went silent as it looked at the Lakers' 64-46 haltime lead.
Abdul-Jabbar and Ainge traded baskets early in the third, but the Celtics were getting nowhere. Cutting the lead to 13 seemed to be a major accomplishment.
Trailing by 79-62, the Celtics ripped off eight in a row, but the Lakers calmly drove the lead back to 87-75 by the time the third quarter ended. Abdul-Jabbar had 12 in the period.
And he kept the heat on in the fourth, scoring 10 more with five rebounds over Parish.
The Celtics' best run started after an Abdul-Jabbar sky hook gave LA a 94-81 lead. DJ hit a jumper, Bird followed with a jumper after a bad Magic pass, then Bird hit two free throws after stealing a Larry Spriggs pass. It was 94-87 with 6:46 left.
They traded baskets for a minute, then Worthy fouled out driving to the basket with 5 minutes left. A three-point play by Parish (off a nice feed from Bird) cut it to four with 4:22 left, but the Celtics never got any closer. Magic drove to make it 102-96. LA's lead was still six when Kareem rebounded a Bird three-point miss. The Lakers called time with 2:32 left.
Bird cut it to four with two free throws after a Bob McAdoo rebounding foul, but Cooper hit a bomb from out top (barely beating the 24-second clock), then rebounded an Ainge miss. One free throw by McAdoo with 1:17 left made it 107-100 and sealed Boston's fate.
"It's a slap in the face to us," said Ainge. "They came in and stole one, and everybody is really upset. We'll be ready for the next one."
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