Will Game 3 Bring another Laker Blitzkrieg?

May 31, 1987

The scary thing is that the Los Angeles Lakers believe they haven't really started to show the Boston Celtics anything yet.

This, after a 115-109 in Game 1 of the NBA title series at Boston Garden - the first win by an opponent at the Garden in the playoff season.

This, after a throttling so stunning that 14,890 crazies in the stands fell silent for huge chunks of time, their enthusiasm transmuted into shellshock.

This, after the aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - running faster than Celtics center Robert Parish up and down the floor, despite the aftereffects of a migraine - dropped in 32 points and reduced Parish to a foul-plagued, and eventually fouled-out, non-factor.

And that's not even counting Magic Johnson's 10 ever-so-easy assists, Byron Scott's clutch shooting in the fourth quarter, or the defense that swing man Michael Cooper laid on Larry Bird, who collected only five assists and a relatively ineffectual 24 points in the face of straight-up double-teams made possible by Cooper's body blockades.

But that wasn't anything, the Lakers say.

"With the exception of the first 8 minutes of Sunday's game, we really didn't play very well," said Los Angeles coach Pat Riley yesterday. "From the point where we were ahead, 28-10, I think they outplayed us.

"From that point on, they were playing their kind of game. So we have a lot of work to do."

Riley was not just mouthing platitudes, either, judging by what Johnson said yesterday.

Speaking at an informal brunch at the Lakers' hotel here, Johnson actually sounded worried about Game 2, which will be played Thursday night in Boston Garden.

"I didn't think we played well at all in the second half," he said. "We came out in the first 2 minutes and played good, but after that, we didn't execute well. We didn't box out well on the boards."

And yet, given all that, the Lakers opened up three 19-point leads, survived a 24-10 Boston scoring burst in the second half and never let the Celts get closer than four points.

They took advantage of lopsided individual matchups, such as 6-foot-2 Gerald Henderson on 6-foot-9 Magic Johnson, and 6-foot-9 James Worthy against 6-foot-4 Dennis Johnson.

And yet, in their refusal to crow, the Lakers are probably right.

In the first quarter, the Lakers blitzed the Celtics with 72.7 percent shooting, (they hit nine of their first 11 shots), split the rebounding battle with the bigger, bulkier Celtics, sprang Abdul-Jabbar loose for 13 points, got 10 points out of Magic Johnson (he finished with just 18) and put Parish into early foul trouble.

After that, though, the statistics show it really was Boston's type of game, and that were it not for the Lakers' opening blitzkrieg, the Celts probably would have won.

In the second quarter, for instance, the Lakers shot just 8 for 20 (40 percent) and yet held their lead primarily due to a 14-6 advantage at the free-throw line.

In the third quarter, in which Parish picked up his fifth foul, the Celts managed to cut an 83-64 lead back to 92-88, rousing the Garden crowd to the point that Riley said his players could not hear him in the 2-minute huddle between quarters.

And in the final period, the two teams slugged it out, with the Celtics winning the boards, 14-11, and holding the Lakers to just 47 percent shooting.

The only problem was that Bird simply was not hitting his shots, and because of that, the Boston shooting in the final period was worse - 34.7 percent.

Riley does not sell his opponents short. "They're a creative team that really flourishes," he said. "They can run with us because they're willing to run. If we spread the court, we play to their strength because they can rebound and kill you on the offensive boards, which they did to us in the second half. The most important thing is that if they miss, they have (Kevin) McHale and Cedric Maxwell crashing the offensive boards.

"And with the exception of the first 8 minutes of the game, well, we just didn't do very well."

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