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C's Nip Magicless Lakers
January 19, 1981
CELTICS TOP LAKERS
Larry Bird was one of the last Celtics to leave the locker room yesterday. The 98-96 victory over the Lakers had been a meaningful one for a lot of reasons. One more hurdle that has been bugging him and his teammates had been cleared.
"I think it was a big victory for us psychologically. It's nice to beat a team you've never beaten before for the first time, especially when it's the world champions..
Cedric Maxwell agreed. He has labored for the Celtics for 3 1/2 seasons, and yesterday was only the third time in nine games against the Lakers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that he has been in the winner's locker room.
"I don't remember beating them too many times," he said. "They stopped us twice last year in close games, which made this one so important."
Laker-Celtic games have been emotional ones dating back to the Bill Russell era. Before yesterday, Los Angeles had won five of the last six meetings between the two teams, save a 108-106 victory in the Garden by the Celtics on March 11, 1979.
What transpired in the Garden yesterday's can't be told in the scoring column alone. You must check the turnovers, steals and blocked shots.
Fifty-seven turnovers during a Net-Piston game would accurately reflect the quality of both teams. But to have that many turnovers in a regular season Celtic-Laker battle indicates a high level of play, particularly on defense.
It is usually reached in the playoffs when scouting reports give away practically all the secrets of both teams. This was a regular season game where two high-powered offenses failed to reach 100 points.
"When you hold a team like the Lakers to that few points (14 in final quarter), then somebody must be doing something right," said Bird. "I know what we were doing . . . helping out. This was a good game for us against a good team. We were lucky to stay close, and if their shots had been falling in earlier, they might have blown us out.
"But we were close enough to put some pressure on them and make them do some things they didn't want to do. We did a better job of keeping the ball out of the hands of Kareem and (Jamaal) Wilkes, and into those of other people."
"What made it a good game," said Tiny Archibald, "was because both clubs did such a good job of scouting. We knew what they were trying to do, and our defense reacted. They knew our plays so well that a couple of times I'd make a pass and their man would beat our man to the spot and be there waiting for the ball."
Boston was able to win without major point production from Bird, as Parish, Maxwell and Tiny Archibald (each 22 points) took up the slack. Parish was able to work inside and get the same shots against Abdul-Jabbar as he got against any other center. Fatigue was his only weakness yesterday as coach Bill Fitch had to play him 42 minutes.
The Celtics erxtended another streak by keeping the Lakers under the 100- point mark. Boston is 17-0 in games in which they held clubs under the three-digit mark and that certainly isn't a meaningless statistic.
"They're the same old Celtics . . . they keep running at you. The way this game was played was worthy of the playoffs. The way it was officiated was not worth mentioning," said Jabbar.
But these are not the same old Celtics, Maxwell pointed out. Kareem could play Cowens and other Celtic centers straight up. Yesterday, he needed help and Parish still hit 9 of 18 shots for 22 points, and had six steals to go with his 11 rebounds. Boston has become a team that wins almost all the close games now, home or away.
"We've got Robert," said Maxwell. "Doesn't that mean we're different? Think back to a year ago. If Bird had played the same kind of game he played today, we'd probably been beaten. But we're no longer just a one- or a two-man team. We have other people we can go to, and we don't hesitate."
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