January 19, 1981

Maybe it was a standoff after all. Magic Johnson didn't play, and Larry Bird did.

Come again? Well, the Boston hero had One Of Those Days yesterday, and perhaps the most amazing aspect of the Celtics' 98-96 triumph over the Lakers was the fact that Bird was such a small factor. Oh, he had some nice assists, and he battled for nine rebounds, but his paltry scoring total (11) was indicative of his offensive contribution. He shot 4 for 13, and his final shot was a God-awful brick that threatened the health and safety of the backboard at the east end of the Garden. "In the first half," explained Bird, who is eternally forthright, "I was completely out of the offense. We wanted to get the ball inside. But when I get off to a slow start, it's very bad for me. If I'm not in it during the first half, I don't usually get in it at all."-

The Lakers had two fast-break points in the entire second half . . . Quick-handed, opportunistic Michael Cooper had seven steals for the visitors, including a big one with 30 seconds to play that enabled Los Angeles to get a final victory opportunity . . . The Celtics shot 27 free throws to LA's 12, but Bill Fitch said that made sense (What else would you expect him to say?). "One of the big items in our preparation," explained Fitch, "was the fact that LA doesn't usually go to the line much. So we wanted to make sure we didn't put them there unnecessarily. The Lakers failed to get into the bonus in three of the four periods." . . . Jamaal Wilkes' 29 points seemed like at least 60. He only had three nonjumpers among his 14 field goals, and one of those was an artful lane scoop that Elgin Baylor would have been proud to call his own.-

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the tenor of the game: "I thought we played pretty well. I think the play was worthy of the playoffs. But the way the game was officiated was not worth mentioning in terms of anything." . . . Rick Robey logged only 6 minutes because Robert Parish was needed to battle Kareem for 42 minutes. "What I liked about Parish," said Fitch, "was that when we needed a big defensive play, he made it with two key blocks on one sequence. He also got some important rebounds. He wasn't as good as usual shot-wise, but I attribute that more to fatigue and too many minutes. I couldn't have played him as much as I did if this weren't a TV game, giving us extra timeouts." . . . Fitch on the West All-Star team, where Kareem will be flanked by Adrian Dantley and Walter Davis at forward, plus George Gervin and Paul Westphal at guard: "He'd better have those arms greased up. He'll set a game record for blocked shots playing with that group." . . . No rest for the weary, as the Celtics journey to Hartford for a 7:30 encounter with Detroit (Ch. 4, WBZ radio) tonight . . . When will M.L. Carr come back, Bill Fitch? "Carr is going to be able to announce his own comeback. I'm serious. I will tell him when, and he will get to announce it. It will be called Ask M.L.' " Seriously, folks, it won't be long now.

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