Riles Counters with Worthy at Two-Guard

May 27, 1984

In an effort to counter the Celtics' huge front line, the Lakers' Pat Riley countered with a backcourt of Magic Johnson and the 6-9 James Worthy against the Celtics' starting backcourt of Gerald Henderson, 6-2, and Dennis Johnson, 6-4.

Surprise in Johnson's Eyes

"I would have to say that threw them off a little," Michael Cooper said. "I saw the surprise in D. J.'s eyes when he saw James on him."

K. C. Jones, the Celtic coach, has to find a way when the series resume in Boston on Thursday night of preventing the Lakers from dictating the defensive alignments the way they did Sunday.

Worthy, normally the reserve small forward, did not learn until Saturday night at a team meeting that he would be making his second straight playoff start.

"I'm goal-oriented and I've learned to let destiny takes its course," said Worthy, who scored 20 points in the Lakers' 115-109 victory. "I got a little taste of playing defensively in the backcourt in the Kansas City and Dallas playoff series against Eddie Johnson and Rolando Blackman. I was there to help out defensively. I can see how Magic and I can present some matchup problems for other teams."

There is no mold that fits the 23- year-old Worthy, who left the University of North Carolina after his junior year to become the first pick in the 1982 draft and sign a seven-year contract with the Lakers worth a reported $3.5 million.

Size, Speed and Ability

At 219 pounds, he has the size of a power forward, the speed of a small forward on the fast break and the sledge-hammer dunking ability of a center.

Probably one of Worthy's biggest assets is his strength. Once he gets position, he has an array of quick moves, both right- and left-handed.

"There are so many ways James helps out and can hurt opposing teams," said Jamaal Wilkes, the Laker forward. "The combination of his speed and quickness makes him virtually impossible to stop when he goes one-on-one. He gets inside like a power forward, moves like a small forward and can handle the ball as though he was a third guard. He's going to be a force in this league. You can tell by the way opposing teams are starting to double-team him as often as they do Kareem Abdul-Jabbar." While Worthy said after the Sunday game that "the only statistic I'm interested in is winning as many championships as I can," in the Celtic dressing room, Dennis Johnson said, "we're going to have to find a way to cope with their matchups."


FLCeltsFan said...

As much as I dislike Pat Riley, he was a heck of a tactician.

Lex said...

It was a clever move

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