10.17.2014

Bird was the Rarest of Species



May 1984

Although both teams thrive on running games, and Jones and Coach Pat Riley of the Lakers have strong benches to fall back on, the focus will be on Larry Bird of the Celtics and Earvin (Magic) Johnson of the Lakers. Those two have been major draws since they came into the league together five years ago.

Bird is that rarest of species - a complete player. On any night, he might wind up as the scoring, rebounding and assist leader, or any combination of those.

Johnson brought a new dimension to pro basketball - a 6-foot-8-inch guard who can score, pass and rebound. He has led the league in steals twice, in 1981 and 1982, and in assists the last two seasons.

Those two present matchup problems for both coaches.

Minutes after the Celtics eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks, 4-1, last Wednesday night and moved to the final, every player in the noisy Boston dressing room presumed the Lakers would be the championship-round opponent. Thus, the questions of matchups arose.

"Will you be guarding Magic Johnson?" Dennis Johnson, the Celtics' 6-4 guard,was asked.

"I guess it will be me," he said, "and you know what that will be like - tough, very tough."

Johnson's jump shot with 65 seconds remaining Friday night gave the Lakers the 99-97 victory that eliminated the Phoenix Suns. It took the Lakers much longer than they had hoped to get to the title round.

After breezing through the Kansas City Kings and the Dallas Mavericks in the earlier playoffs, they took a 3-0

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