How Sweep It Is (Lakers Return the Favor)
The stars came out. Walter Matthau, Al Davis, Dancing Barry and other assorted faces from the pages of People magazine were there to see and be seen when the Los Angeles Lakers played the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, Laker scoring studs named Jamaal Wilkes (flu) and Bob McAdoo (asthma) did not come out, but LA was still able to pull away from the Celtics in convincing fashion with a 116-108 victory at the Fabulous Forum.
"It's become our trademark," said a disgusted Larry Bird, who was held to 12 shots and 14 points. "We're not beating the good teams. The Lakers have swept us, and Philadelphia and Milwaukee have beaten us when they didn't have all their players." This is one the Celtics will regret if their path leads to a championship final series against the Lakers, who beat Boston, 111-109, 2 1/2 weeks ago in the Garden.
"I suppose if we meet them in the finals, this will give them a lot of confidence," said Kevin McHale, who paced Boston with 26 points. The way the Celtics fell apart down the stretch should be of some concern to those who live and die with each victory and defeat. This game was winnable. Boston had a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and the undermanned Lakers should have been tired.
Michael Cooper (20 points and his usual great defensive job on Bird), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (31 points), and Magic Johnson (18 assists) wiped out Boston's biggest lead with a 9-2 run. The Lakers took the lead for good (95-94) with 7:49 left on a followup jam by Abdul-Jabbar. The Celtics didn't fall apart until the final three minutes. After a Cedric Maxwell drive cut LA's lead to 105-102, the Lakers put it away with six straight.
Magic started the winning drive with a layup off a pass from Abdul-Jabbar. Then Magic stole a Dennis Johnson pass and fed Mike McGee for a breakaway slam. James Worthy (27 points) rebounded a Gerald Henderson miss, and Abdul- Jabbar was fouled at the offensive end. He made both to put the Lakers ahead, 111-102, with 2:30 left. Then Robert Parish (17 points, 12 rebounds) fouled out and it was over.
"The Lakers controlled at the end, and that's generally when we are the toughest," said Maxwell. "It was winnable," sighed DJ. "We just didn't do the things we were supposed to at the end." Lakers coach Pat Riley said his team had a three-point plan to beat Boston: prevent Bird from getting the ball, double-team Boston's big men underneath, and get back on defense to stop the Celtics' transition game. "We were successful about 70 percent of the time," said Riley.
Cooper started in Wilkes' forward spot and assumed the familiar task of guarding Bird. "I tried to deny Bird the ball as much as possible," said Cooper. "When he goes, so goes the Celtics." The Celtics led, 26-23, after one, but Worthy destroyed Boston with 14 points in the second quarter, and the Lakers were ahead, 53-50, at halftime. Parish had four fouls at intermission and sat out the first 8 1/2 minutes of the third quarter.
Worthy soared out of the blocks after halftime, scoring 11 of 13 Lakers points to give LA a 66-58 lead. When DJ and Henderson generated some offense from the backcourt, the Celtics ripped off eight in a row to tie it at 77-77. Parish returned with 3:30 left in the third. The Celtics got physical underneath, took an 85-84 lead on a basket by McHale and led, 87-84, after three thanks to a heroic fast-break followup by Maxwell.
Parish opened the final quarter with a three-point play to give the Celtics a 90-84 lead. The Lakers took over from there. "That was the part of the game we should have been controlling, but turnovers hurt us," said Celtics coach K.C. Jones. "Our ballhandling and Bird's lack of touch devastated us."
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