Larry v. Magic: Game 21
LOSS PUTS CELTICS BACKS AGAINST THE WALL
The Forum farewell was everything the Lakers had hoped it would be. Magic was Magic, Worthy was Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was . . . still dominant after all these years.
After watching their 18-point lead dwindle to four in the fourth period, the much-maligned Lakers showed some serious fortitude and put back the Celtics, 120-111, last night. On an evening when they could have caved in to the cries and whispers that followed Wednesday's two-point loss, the LA greyhounds resumed the fight and took back the night.
As a result, LA takes a 3-2 championship-series lead back to the parquet chamber of horrors on Causeway Street. The Celtics are now on the threshold of becoming the 16th consecutive titlist to fail to defend. Game 6 is tomorrow at 1 p.m.
"Our guys were ready for this game," said Laker coach Pat Riley. "The loss the other night was a hard one. We needed to come back strong . . . We are the first team to get the chance to win the title. We are going to come out tough. I don't care if this game was going to be played in Liverpool, England, on some soccer field, we're going to be tough."
Game 5 was pretty much a Laker clinic, wire-to-wire. The Great Goggled One led all scorers with 36 points. James Worthy had 33 (13-of-17 shooting) and terrorized every woman, child and Celtic in the building. As usual, Magic Johnson orchestrated the home team's attack, this time with 26 points, 6 rebounds and 17 assists.
Meanwhile, the Celtics' lack of depth was never more evident - or more costly. A mere seven Celtics played and only six scored. Dennis Johnson never came out of the game. Scott Wedman served as the third guard, and what's left of Cedric Maxwell contributed five minutes of shutout ball. LA's first prototype torching (a devastating 15-3 job) came late in the first half when Wedman and Maxwell were manning the corners.
Center Robert Parish was Boston's high scorer (26 points) but struggled in the first quarter as forever-young Kareem scored 12. LA led, 35-31, after one.
"Tonight I just read the double-teams very well," said Abdul-Jabbar, who also had seven assists. "When I had the shot I took it and when they collapsed, I passed off. The team was making the right passes tonight and it really paid off."
Kevin McHale (24 points, 10 rebounds, 2 minutes of rest) and DJ (22 points and 17 assists) kept the Celtics in it for the first seven minutes of the second. Then Boston's depth dilemma surfaced: a 49-48 ball game turned into a neo-blowout.
With Parish trying to hold down the frontcourt alongside Maxwell and Wedman, the Lakers got every big rebound for the rest of the quarter, streaking to a 64-51 halftime lead. The Lakers outscored the Celtics, 15-3, in the last 4 minutes 33 seconds of the second. Worthy had seven of the 15. Bird, meanwhile, was 1 of 5 with two points at intermission.
Worthy was en route to an 11-point quarter as LA ran its lead to 70-52. When Boston coach K.C. Jones was ejected by Darell Garretson (arguing what he thought was a foul on Kurt Rambis) it looked like the Celtics might try to catch the next red-eye flight out of LAX.
Enter Bird. Boston's MVP awoke and helped close the gap. Boston had a chance to cut it to six, but Danny Ainge lost control under the basket. That was all the Lakers needed. Worthy and Magic ripped off a tidy, 9-2 run that made it 85-70 and forced a Celtic timeout. With Wedman in the backcourt instead of Ainge, the Celtics got it back down to 10 again, but Magic and Worthy had it back up to 95-81 when the third quarter ended.
The Lakers missed seven straight shots at the start of the fourth. A couple of DJ jumpers and a Parish turnaround cut it to eight with 9:02 left.
After a timeout, Kareem missed a hook and DJ cut it to 95-89 with a jumper. Kareem snapped the skid with a hook, but with 7 minutes to go it was still a six-point ball game.
Bird (eight of 17 for 20 points), Parish and DJ closed the gap to four points five times midway through the fourth. It was the Celtics' finest stretch. The only man missing was McHale, who was held to six in the second half.
The last time Boston was within four came when Bird hit two free throws with 3:55 left.
Abdul-Jabbar answered with a skyhook, then Magic rebounded a DJ bomb and Rambis hit two free throws after being fouled on a follow-up. When Rambis stole a DJ pass, setting up Magic on a sneakaway, it was 113-103 with 2:40 left.
"When they cut the lead to four, we came back and made some key plays," said Riley.
The Celtics never got closer than six the rest of the way. With 1:22 left, a dunk by Kareem (off a Worthy feed) made it 117-107, and the Celtics were going home, 2-3.
"I think this gives us a little edge," said Magic. "We knew tonight was do or die, and now we can go back with two chances to win one."
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