Celtics Bit Players Stop Showtime

May 31, 1987

The bit players emerged from the shadows at Boston Garden and stopped the National Basketball Association's premier show.

That's one of the things that will be remembered about Game 2 of the championship series - a drama-drenched overtime game in which the Boston Celtics, teetering on the precipice, fought back for a 124-121 victory over the error-prone Los Angeles Lakers, thereby gaining a 1-1 split going into tomorrow afternoon's game on L.A.'s home court.

Suddenly, the title series that was simplistically labeled as a contest between the Lakers' Magic Johnson and the Celtics' Larry Bird has taken on a new dimension.

Johnson, dribbling away almost all of the last 13 seconds of regulation time before setting up a shot by Bob McAdoo that failed to beat the buzzer, turns out to be a human being, after all.

Bird, shooting only 8 for 22 from the floor, turns out to be human, too.

The nature of this beast has changed drastically, not only because of the failings of Bird and Johnson, but because of the rise of guys like Scott Wedman. And Gerald Henderson. And Danny Ainge.

So going into Game 3, it might be well to forget Bird for a while if you can. And forget some of the other more prominent Celtics - Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell.

Instead, look to the shadows, from where the real heroes of Game 2 came, and consider the possibility that this entire best-of-seven show could come down to plays made by people like the rarely used Wedman, whose 14-foot jump shot with 14 seconds left in overtime gave Boston the game, or Henderson, whose steal and layup at the end of regulation and three-point play in overtime helped doom the Lakers.

Or it might come down to another defensive play by Robert Parish, whose relative invisibility in Game 1 had prompted one Boston newspaper to ask sarcastically: "Is Parish Burning?"

Apparently he is not, as he demonstrated in the final seconds of overtime Thursday, when he stripped McAdoo of the ball to preserve Boston's victory.

Or what about Ainge, who hit his shots in clusters and who almost single handedly kept the Celtics from folding in the face of the onrushing Lakers in the fourth period?

L.A. coach Pat Riley, for one, is convinced that that was no mirage out there on the parquet floor.

Before his team's flight here yesterday, he was asked about Wedman.

"I've always respected Scott," he said. "He's a smart, veteran player. He sat most of the year, but he had the presence of mind and the attitude to give his team help when called upon. A lot of guys can't do that.

"We doubled on Bird to make him give up the ball," said Riley, discussing the play on which Wedman hit his game-winning basket. "We made the next guy (Henderson) give it up. Finally, it went to Wedman, and he buried it."

And Ainge?

For the third-year guard out of Brigham Young, this has been a difficult season. He lost his starting job under the new regime of coach K. C. Jones, saw his shot disappear and saw his playing time vanish to next to nothing.

Yet he pumped in six field goals Thursday, the first four coming in a first half in which the Celts rocketed to a pair of 13-point leads. He hit his other two field goals - the second coming on a lean-in flyer off a fast break - in the waning moments of regulation, when Boston was on the edge of defeat.

"I always feel I can shoot," Ainge said before the Celtics' practice yesterday afternoon. "I hit my first couple, so I was able to stay in there a little longer. He (Jones) didn't feel he had to go to anybody else."

And Parish?

After his dismal Game 1, he not only made the game-clinching steal, he shot 9 for 14 from the floor.

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