February 18, 1985
LAKERS WATER DOWN THE CELTICS, 117-111
They threw sandbags onto the rising river banks for 22 minutes. Sandbags named Greg Kite, Carlos Clark, Scott Wedman and M.L. Carr held back the flood until the final two minutes . . . and then came the deluge. A rain dance by the Magic Man burst the barriers and washed the Celtics away.
It is impossible to review yesterday's 117-111 Laker victory over the Celtics without speculating on what the game might have been like if not for an ankle injury that sidelined Boston center Robert Parish for the entire second half.
Lakers coach Pat Riley said, "Losing Parish elevated our players and took the monkey off their back, but it also made them think, 'What'll we win today if we win?' "
Like Celtics-Sixers games and Lakers-Sixers games, this matchup qualifies as a major blip on an otherwise brain-dead NBA regular-season scan. How unfortunate, then, that one team was stripped of its center for half of this centerfold contest.
The loss dropped the Celtics to 2-2 on the West Coast (with two to play) and cut their Atlantic Division lead over Philadelphia to a half-game. If that doesn't leave you with a bitter taste, swallow this: The Celtics will take on the Jazz tonight without Parish, Cedric Maxwell (knee) or Quinn Buckner (tonsil inflammation). All three are back in Boston for tests and convalescence.
In other words, this loss might have far-reaching consequences. The Celtics face the prospect of a 2-4 road trip, a tumble from first place and grave uncertainty on the condition of Maxwell's left knee. LA team physician Stephen Lombardo mentioned the possibility of arthroscopic surgery when he examined Maxwell after the game. Max will get at least one more opinion before the Celtics do anything.
Meanwhile, back in the land of glitter and Spandex, Lakers fans are celebrating what they hope is an end to the Boston jinx. They were beginning to think of Magic Johnson & Co. as a latter-day Gas House Gang. The Lakers dropped all the close ones in last year's championship final, kissed one away at the Garden last month and faced a 103-103 tie against the undermanned Celtics with 2:34 left yesterday.
Then Michael Cooper put LA ahead for good, scoring off a give-and-go feed from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20 points). Kareem rebounded a miss by Larry Bird (33 points, 15 rebounds), and James Worthy hit an 8-foot turnaround, post- up jumper as he was fouled by Wedman. Worthy made the free throw to set the score at 108-103 with 1:30 left. The overmatched Wedman was in the game because Max' knee was sore. Max came back after that play, but it was too late.
When Byron Scott rebounded a Kevin McHale turnaround, the Celtics had to start fouling and firing three-pointers. Magic made nine of 10 free throws in the final 45 seconds (17 of 19 overall).
"This game was important for our confidence and will do us good through the rest of the season," said Johnson, who finished with 37 points (his highest total in two seasons) and 13 assists. "I came out more aggressive today. A lot of people say I can't do this or I can't do that, but today I went out and showed what I can do and had fun."
Magic was involved in everything - even Parish's injury. Johnson scored 12 points in a sparkling first quarter that featured a two-team shooting average of 67 percent (28 for 42).
The Lakers led, 34-29, after one, but Bird (22 at halftime) fired the Celtics back into it, and Boston led, 62-59, at intermission.
In the final minute of the first half, Parish stepped on Magic's foot and turned his left ankle. He limped off and was done for the day. Though his first-half performance was brutal (three points and one rebound in 18 minutes), the game wasn't the same without him.
LA opened the third with an 11-2 run and took a 70-64 lead on a dazzling drive by Magic. McHale (15 points) was doing his best to stop Kareem in the middle, but as Abdul-Jabbar said, "We really went inside after Parish left the game. McHale is not the type of inside player that Parish is."
The Celtics made a gallant run in the final quarter. Wedman (five of eight from the field) did some of his best shooting since his Cleveland days, and when Dennis Johnson (20 points, 10 assists) stuck in a jumper from the left corner with 6:28 left, Boston led, 97-96, and Riley was calling for time.
The Lakers started going to Worthy and Kareem after the pause, and there was nothing Boston could do. There wasn't any sand left to stop the Laker wave.