Lakers Grind Out Win at Gahden

February 9, 1984

Like Christmas, your birthday and the Marathon, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town only once a year. It is an evening to be studied and savored. You wouldn't sit in bed reading on the night that Halley's comet finally flashes by, would you? Last night's coastal duel was worth the wait. Lakers' living legends and Celtics' retired-numbers-to-be were all present, and after a pulsating 48 minutes, the Lakers were 111-109 winners when Dennis Johnson grabbed a defensive rebound as his teammates unsuccessfully tried to call time before the final buzzer.

The outcome seemed incidental. This one merely served to stoke the hopes that fate will bring these two together in a championship final for the first time since 1969.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the winners with a heroic 27 points, including his 12,682d career field goal, an NBA high. The Great Goggled One got a lot of help from mechanical Jamaal Wilkes (25, with eight rebounds), and Magic Johnson (20 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 6 steals).

The Celtics were led by Larry Bird's 29 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Kevin McHale chipped in with 21 points and Gerald Henderson added 15, but the Celtics couldn't overcome LA's white-hot (.538, 49 for 91) floor shooting. "The sparks were flying," said K.C. Jones after watching his Celtics lose two in a row for the first time since Nov. 22.

Boston trailed for most of the first half. There were seven ties in the third quarter, which ended with LA leading, 88-85. The Lakers led by six early in the fourth period (95-89), before the Celtics fought back into it. With 2:58 left, Boston pulled even, 103-103, on two free throws by Cedric Maxwell after Henderson swiped the ball from a would-be sky-hooking Abdul- Jabbar.

James Worthy (17 points) immediately put the Lakers back on top with a hook, but when Robert Parish (17 points, 11 rebounds) followed up a Maxwell miss, it was 105-105. Wilkes put the Lakers back ahead with a patented left corner jumper. Down by two, the Celtics called time with 1:27 left. After the pause, Magic rebounded a hook by Parish and got fouled at the other end. He made both to give the Lakers a 109-105 lead with 0:59 showing.

DJ came back to hit a short jumper, but Wilkes buried one from out top (without moving the net) and it was 111-107 with 28 seconds left. With 16 seconds to play, Parish followed up a DJ shot. Neither team called time, but when the Lakers inbounded, the Celtics' bench starting imploring the Green to foul somebody. Boston never did.

The Lakers spread it out once they passed halfcourt and got lucky when "Fair Hooker" Wilkes saved a wild Worthy heave from going out of bounds under the Boston basket. "I thought it was going to go sailing out of bounds," admitted Wilkes. "I just went for it and palmed it with my hand." "He's got the best hands in the league," added Lakers coach Pat Riley. "He can really flag those down."

Curiously, Wilkes chose to shoot the ball after his recovery. Maxwell blocked the shot, and DJ came up with the loose ball, but the buzzer went off as Bird and Co. begged Paul Mihalak and Bill Oakes for time. Why didn't the Celtics foul LA with 16 - or even 10 - seconds left on the clock? "In hindsight, yeah, we should have fouled," said Maxwell. "I can't say that was the brainiest thing we did all year. We gambled and tired to get the steal."

"It didn't cross my mind," said DJ. "I was trying to keep the pressure on and harass them. I wanted to make them use up their 10 seconds (to halfcourt), but they got it over and then spread it out on us." It was LA's eighth consecutive victory, but only their second win (in seven tries) against the Celtics since the start of the 1980-81 season


Was it a coincidence that K.C. Jones was presented his Coach of the Month Award on the night Bill Fitch was here, or does someone in the league office have a macabre sense of humor? . . . Impressed with the Celtics' sellout string, which reaches 145 today? When Boston plays the Trail Blazers a week from today, it'll be the 300th consecutive packed house in Portland . . . Boston Garden electricians didn't like the setup when the Lakers brought their own heating pads for the bench Wednesday. The Lakers were sitting on metal chairs and the wires to the bench were not grounded.

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