February 19, 1990
A RUNNING STORY: LA PREVAILS AGAIN
The game plan was being followed to a textbook T. Turnovers? A manageable seven at intermission, a nice complement to a half in which the Celtics shot 63 percent from the floor.
Did someone mention shooting? In the first eight minutes of the third quarter, Boston hit 90 percent of its jumpers.
And lost the lead.
The game, too.
And so it goes in the Fabulous Forum, where the Celtics acquitted themselves admirably yesterday, yet still fell, 116-110, to the league's best team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The infuriating reality is this: Boston can shoot the lights out (61.5 percent for the game) and play near perfect basketball for 40 minutes, but the Lakers will take those eight minutes when your concentration wavers and stuff them down your throat.
Consider the aforementioned stretch of the third quarter, which began with the Boys in Green on top, 58-52.
With 9:02 on the clock, Magic Johnson knocked down his first 3-pointer of the day. That seemed harmless enough, especially since Reggie Lewis (24 points on 10-of-13 shooting) countered with a slashing jumper.
No problem, right? James Worthy (25 points), who terrorized the Celtics all afternoon, knocked a drive in underneath and when Lewis hit the deck scrambling for a loose ball, he and Magic were called for a jump, which the Lakers controlled.
That turned into a Mychal Thompson bucket, which Larry Bird (20 points) answered shortly thereafter. Still no need to panic.
But the next time down, Worthy pulled up short on his jumper, Robert Parish lost a handle on the rebound, and it was LA's ball. Byron Scott made good on the second chance, and the Lakers were within 2 (70-68).
Now the Boston bench began shifting uncomfortably. Bird walked the next time down and Scott hit a single free throw. Parish swished a rainbow, Worthy scored on a drive, Dennis Johnson nailed a perimeter jumper, and Magic pulled up for another 3-pointer.
Tie game, 74-74.
Momentarily stunned, Boston regained its composure and struck on a Lewis lob to Kevin McHale. But here came Magic again, with another pull-up 3.
When Scott stole DJ's entry pass to Parish, LA was off and running, with Scott finishing off the 3-point play, the 21-10 run and the Lakers' 80-76 advantage.
At that moment, Boston was 9 for 10 from the floor, yet somehow had lost 11 points.
"We got beat on the hustle plays," said Parish, who scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. "That's what beat us. Jump balls, second and third attempts . . . they thrive on that."
"I think the 3s took a lot out of them," said Magic, whose MVP line included 30 points and 13 assists. "That kind of run really deflates you. You play as well as you can and you still lose the lead."
Boston did forge ahead again by the end of the third (94-92) on a Kevin Gamble 3-point bomb with one tick on the clock, but it was disheartening nonetheless to shoot 79 percent in a quarter and cling to a one-basket advantage.
That lead was still in place with 9:18 left -- when another brief spell of mistakes did the Celtics in.
An Orlando Woolridge slam off a Boston turnover knotted the score at 98 and kicked off a run that staked the Lakers to a 106-100 edge with 5:34 left.
Included in that stretch was Woolridge stripping McHale of the ball (that turned into a killer Scott trey from the corner), an ill-advised McHale 3-point attempt, a Parish turnover in the post and a forced, off-balance jumper by DJ with the shot clock running down. Those were Boston's worst two minutes of the day, and they came in crunch time.
"Give them some credit," said McHale, "but we didn't move the ball well. We weren't aggressive. We fell apart."
The Celtics were outdone on the offensive glass, 13-6. Thompson, Worthy and rookie Vlade Divac accounted for the majority of those second chances.
In fact, the Yugoslavian center was the embodiment of the hustle plays Parish referred to. He scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds, but was also a defensive presence, forcing Parish and McHale to alter shots.
So it didn't matter that LA shot 47.3 percent from the floor, or that Worthy's shoulder was so sore he iced it at every timeout. The Lakers live for opportunities, and the Celtics gave them just enough to clinch it.