Purple End Green Streak

Lakers End Celtics 48-Game Streak

December 13, 1986

Section: SPORTS


Hey, Celtics junkie. Get your face up off that floor. Don't put the match to that stock certificate. Stop looking for that Bruins schedule. The Celtics lost at home, but life will go on.

And look at it this way. Did they lose when some fool from San Antonio threw in a ridiculous three-pointer at the buzzer? No. Did they have it stolen by a couple of bozo referees? No. Did they just come out and smell up the joint for 48 minutes, not only losing the game but providing not a scintilla of entertainment? No.

You want 'em to at least lose to somebody good, right? And maybe get a little history thrown in, right? So why not lose on a night when shooting 63 percent for three quarters isn't good enough? Why not lose to a team committing seven (7) turnovers in the entire game? And why not lose to a Living Legend named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who throws in six of those hook shots in the fourth quarter, and who scores 20 of his 26 points in the second half after missing all but six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble?

Yeah, why not lose to the Los Angeles Lakers by a 117-110 score? Yeah, that's the ticket.

You want to talk about a team deserving to win a game? The Lakers last night were Exhibit A. They somehow stayed alive as the Celtics hit 41 of 65 shots in the first three periods and, when the time was right, they blew away Boston with a 25-10 run which turned a 98-90 Celtics advantage (10:16 remaining) into a 115-108 Lakers lead with 2:01 to play. They didn't just end the Celtics' 48-game Garden winning streak. They stuck a giant exclamation point on the end.

The lasting memory of this game will be that of the 39-year-old Abdul- Jabbar taking the game over at the offensive end with the single greatest offensive weapon the game has ever known. He hooked inshots over a helpless Robert Parish to give the Lakers leads of 107-104 (4:57), 111-106 (3:38), 113-108 (2:47) and 115-108 (2:02). He also had two free throws (105-102), and back when the Celtics appeared to be in firm control, he started the big climb with successive hooks that left them trailing by a 98-94 score with 9:20 remaining. "A 7-4 man shooting the sky hook," sighed Parish. "It's very difficult to stop that."

Of course, it's been ever thus in the NBA since 1969, or slightly after man landed on the moon. If this was to be his last visit to the Garden (he may or may not retire and these two may or may not reach the finals), he certainly gave the 282d consecutive Garden capacity crowd of 14,890 something to remember him by.

He received ample assistance from three mates in particular. First, there was Magic Johnson, who bounced back from a knee injury sustained on Wednesday to score 31 points, an astonishing number of them on long set shots. Next there was James Worthy, who hit six of his first seven shots en route to a 17- point first half and 25-point evening. Finally, there was Michael Cooper, whose flypaper defense limited Larry Bird to one field goal attempt in the final period. This was, moreover, not an average Bird, but a sizzling Bird, a Bird who shot 11 for 13 in the game and who might have had 20 in the fourth quarter against an ordinary defender.

The Celtics huffed and puffed and played well enough for three periods to defeat, well, anybody. When a team shoots 65 percent en route to placing four men over 20 points, it generally means that they're up by 23 after three and the stars get to watch the fourth quarter. All it meant last night was that the other guys were down by six and they were, by far, the fresher team.

The Celtics shot 7 for 19 in the fourth quarter. The Lakers shot 12 for 21. The five Celtics starters played an average of 43 minutes. Shots that swished in the first three quarters boinged in the fourth quarter. When the Celtics defeated the Lakers twice last year, Bill Walton was around. Last night Parish played 44 minutes.

Boston tried hard for the knockout punch, going up by seven (37-30) in the first period, by eight (51-43) in the second and by eight (96-88, 98-90) in the early fourth. But, as Thomas Hearns discovered when he fought Marvin Hagler, when you step up in class, it doesn't come out the same. A performance that would have defeated about 45 of the previous 48 victims wasn't good enough this time.

LA took control with a 15-4 run, going ahead on a Byron Scott transition jumper with 6:58 remaining. The Celtics would never lead again and would come within one only once, when Bird threw in an impossible banner-scraping turnaround (105-104). But Kareem stuck in a hook, and you could feel the momentum shift. The Lakers knew what was happening; you can believe that.

"This was a great win," beamed Pat Riley. And Boston-LA is a great rivalry. A record like that deserved to be broken by an equal, and it was.

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