How Sweep It Is

February 24, 1983

For 48 minutes they made everyone forget about strike threats, losing streaks, West Coast weariness and other assorted discord and disappointment. On this night, near the City of Angels, the Celtics sucked in their guts and reminded you why you care.

Playing like the hungry Celtics of yesteryear (circa 1979-82) the Celtics bounced the World Champion Lakers, 113-104, last night. Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, Stephen Stills and other hardcore Laker fans came to see their world champs bury Boston, but filed out of the Fabulous Forum crying in their Perrier and mumbling about guys in green named Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell (30 points) and Robert Parish.

You're going to be hearing a lot about the game Bird played. He scored 32 points, made 13 of 23 shots (including a couple of killer three-pointers in the third quarter), gathered a game-high 17 rebounds and served 9 assists for dessert. "You can use any superlative you want," admitted Laker coach Pat Riley, "but I would have to say tonight he was pretty damn good."

Since the fabricated Magic Johnson vs. Bird duel is always paramount out here, Bird's performance will undoubtedly result in his sneakers being immediately cast in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. But let the record show that Maxwell played his best game of the year (30 points, 8 assists). It was Maxwell who kept the Celts glued together (12 in the first quarter) before Bird took over, and again in the final moments. Meanwhile, Parish (16 points, 11 rebounds) chipped in with a couple of crucial baskets, blocked two of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's shots and held the big fella to a pitiful three rebounds.

It was fitting and typical that the Boston veterans would take over a game in which the Celtics were favored to lose their third straight for only the second time in four years. The Celtics led by one after one, it was tied at intermission and after a third quarter which featured seven lead changes, Boston was ahead, 90-87.

The final period, like the rest of this game, was nothing less than magnificent. While rookie James Worthy (20 points, 11 rebounds) conjured memories of the job he did on Georgetown last spring, Magic Johnson (20 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) kept the Lakers running. Meanwhile, the Celtics weren't shooting particularly well, but they were coming up with loose balls . . . just like in the good old days.

The Celtics led by three (99-96) with six minutes left, but with Parish and Bird, who played 46 minutes, resting on the pine, LA ripped off six in a row and took a 102-99 lead on Jabbar's follow-up slam with 4:10 left. Bill Fitch called time and put Bird and Parish back on the floor. Boston outscored LA, 14-2, the rest of the way.

Gerald Henderson started it, scoring off a drive to cut it to 102-101. A minute later, Maxwell fed Parish for a stuff which put the Celtics up, 103-102, with 2:22 left. After Parish rebounded a Michael Cooper miss, the Chief hit a foul-line jumper to make it 105-102 with 1:52 showing. LA called time. Jamaal Wilkes scored underneath (LA's only points in the final 4:10), but Bird answered from the top of the key. Coming up with more key plays, Maxwell rebounded an errant lob pass by Magic Johnson, then scored underneath to put the Celtics ahead, 109-104 with 45 seconds left. LA called time again. When play resumed, Abdul-Jabbar was called for charging into M. L. Carr and everybody knew it was over.

It was also a big loss for the Lakers, who are now condemned to finish the regular season with an 0-4 record vs. Boston and Philadelphia.

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