5.27.2017

Celtics Inflict More Pain on Da Purple

1/17/1985

The battle scars were there, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hid them well. No one who approached him in the Lakers' dressing room had much success in cutting through his robot-like demeanor.

Abdul-Jabbar did not smile as he spoke. His mood seemed to reflect a career that has been filled with peaks and valleys, bumps and bruises, key hoops and missed shots. What happened to Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers last night was just another pit stop on the long NBA trail.



And if losing to the Celtics last night hurt, you'd never know it.

"They're the defending world champions," Abdul-Jabbar answered softly when asked what it meant to lose yet another close game to the Celtics, who earned that title last year at LA's expense. "We didn't expect to have an easy time of it. We didn't want to come out here and embarrass ourselves. I don't think we did. But we did come up a bit short."

In his 16th season of throwing in his sky hook and helping to carry a franchise, Abdul-Jabbar spoke like a man who fully understands the NBA wars. What's changed? The task is the same each game, as he is double- and triple- teamed, and yet last night he scored 33 points.

But, at the end, the Celtics didn't care if he'd wound up with 50 points. For they put on the kind of pressure that enabled Boston to overcome a 100-97 deficit in the final 50 seconds.

First, the Celtics pressured Abdul-Jabbar into a passing error. With 50 seconds left, he attempted to kick the ball out to Byron Scott, and Danny Ainge knocked the pass to Larry Bird, who started a fast break that wound up in a game-tying, three-point play for Robert Parish.

"Our plan," said Parish, "was to make Kareem a passer as much as possible. That's hard to do, but we picked our spots."

Abdul-Jabbar saw several Celtics again with 18 seconds left. The Lakers had called a play with 30 seconds remaining, and to go to Kareem was but one option. But when he felt the pressure, he shot . . . and missed.

"It was kinda hard to get that shot off," recalled Abdul-Jabbar, after his jump shot banged off the rim and teammate Magic Johnson couldn't tap in two rebounds. "As soon as my hand touched the ball, there were three guys on me. The fourth one was coming. There was no one open to pass to. So I had to shoot it."

Johnson couldn't have been more stoic if his life had depended on it. But there was reality in his voice, too.

"This was just a regular-season game," he said. "Nothing bigger, nothing more. We're not happy about losing. But we played well in Milwaukee and shut off their offense. And we played just as well tonight. Only the shots didn't go down when we needed them.

"The first tap-in is the one I'll remember. It seemed to hang on the rim and then fall off. I saw (Kevin) McHale and Parish coming on the second, and I tapped it straight up. I just hoped somebody could come in and get it. But they didn't."

And so it went for Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers, who had made up their minds before the game not to get too high or too low over the outcome.

"It's a challenge," was Abdul-Jabbar's opinion of the meaning of a game between the NBA's top two teams of a year ago.

"It's hard work, a battle. But then, it's hard work every night we go on the floor, and it doesn't matter who we're playing. It's nothing new. Everybody plays us like that."

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