They did it to the Sacramento Kings in November, the New Jersey Nets in January, the Phoenix Suns in March and the Clippers every time they saw them.
So why shouldn’t the Lakers make the Boston Celtics look like just another bum of the month in June, even if it’s the National Basketball Assn. championship that’s at stake?
If the Celtics backpedal any farther than they did at the Forum in Tuesday night’s 126-113 loss to the Lakers, they’ll be putting up beach umbrellas on Cape Cod in a matter of days.
Everyone might have assumed that the Laker fast break would wear down the Celtics, but did anyone think it would take just 2 minutes 33 seconds?
By that time, it was 9-0, Lakers, and while the outcome of this game may have still been in doubt, the tempo certainly wasn’t.
Try warp speed, on a night the Celtics would have preferred a Boston Pops waltz.
How impressive was the Laker fast break, Boston Coach K.C. Jones was asked?
How impressive is Mt. Everest, he shot back.
“We wanted to push it, post it, and drive it,” Laker Coach Pat Riley said, “and keep doing that for as long as we could.”
Judging by the way they ran, the Lakers could keep going until the 21st Century or until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retires, whichever comes first.
The Lakers ran the break 13 times in their first 16 possessions. They scored on 22 of 35 breaks in the first half, 39 of 66 breaks for the game.
“We ran about as well tonight as we can,” said Bill Bertka, the Laker assistant coach.
In the Celtics’ defense--of which, incidentally, there was very little Tuesday--they haven’t had the luxury of spending weekends in Santa Barbara, as the Lakers did while waiting for the Celtics to dispose of Detroit.
But it’s obvious the Celtics have no better idea of how to stop James Worthy than anybody else in the NBA these days.
Worthy had 33 points Tuesday night, 23 in the first half, when he made 11 of 13 shots. When the Celtics retaliated by running everyone but Red Auerbach at him, Worthy responded by dishing off for a career-high 10 assists. For good measure, he also picked 9 rebounds off the boards, where the Lakers pounded the Celtics by a 47-32 margin.
How do you slow down Worthy? A Denver boot might work--not something out of Doug Moe’s Western collection, but the kind they put on scofflaws’ illegally parked cars.
Michael Cooper, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, had an idea.
“How would I guard him?” Cooper said. “First, I’d go out and buy a 12-gauge shotgun.”
As brilliant a solo as Worthy played, however, this was more than just a one-man show--and that doesn’t include the top-heavy belly dancer Dancing Barry unveiled in the fourth quarter.
Magic Johnson had 29 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds and did not make a turnover in 39 minutes. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar blocked 2 shots in the game’s first two minutes, 4 in the game, grabbed 10 rebounds and scored 14 points. Byron Scott had 20 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and Cooper had 10, including an emphatic alley-oop jam after the Celtics had closed within 13, at 103-90, early in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics never were closer than a dozen in the second half after falling behind by as many as 21 points, 51-30, after the Lakers ran off 12 points in a 1:52 span of the second quarter.
That run started with Worthy scoring on a left-handed lay-in, which was accompanied by a foul by Darren Daye.
Magic Johnson then fed Worthy inside for a fast-break layup; Cooper stole the ball from Daye and sent Worthy in for a jam.
Magic Johnson tied up Daye for a jump ball, then swiped the ball away, setting up Cooper for a three-pointer.
A pullup jumper by Cooper on yet another break, and it was 51-30, with 7:52 to go in the first half.
Not even a string of 11 straight baskets by Bird, who led Boston with 32 points, could overcome that deficit.
“I believe our big problems are something that can be corrected,” Bird said afterward. “Obviously, we’re going to have to do it.”
Those problems, he said, are rebounding and defense. He could have mentioned playing a decent game on the road, where the Celtics have won just four times since Feb. 21. In the playoffs, they lost twice at Milwaukee, their only win coming in double overtime, and lost all three games they played in Detroit.
Why the Jekyll-Hyde routine when the Celtics encamp anywhere but on parquet?
“It’s amazing to me,” Riley said. “Celtic teams have always been great road teams. That one has me stumped.
“But I hope they keep playing like that.”
Bird is less stumped than steamed by Boston’s road failures.
“It’s very tough coming on the road thinking, ‘loss,’ ” Bird said. “But it’s happened so much in the past that it gets that way.
“We’ve got to get tougher on the road.”
Bird didn’t get much help Tuesday night. Robert Parish scored 16 points and Kevin McHale 15, while Boston’s starting guards combined for 18 points. Danny Ainge had 11, Dennis Johnson 7.
“Every time I got the ball, I saw everybody’s eyes looking at me,” Bird said.
Bird said it wasn’t the Lakers’ fast start that got to him.
“It bothered me a lot more that we let them play the whole game and do whatever they wanted to do.”
That’s the way it’s been this spring for the Lakers, who are 8-0 at home in the playoffs, 12-1 overall.
Riley suggested that an embarrassing loss like Tuesday night’s might light a fire under the Celtics, much as a 148-114 defeat in Game 1 in 1985 spurred on the Lakers.
So what about it, Bird was asked. Carrying any matches?
“No, but I might be carrying a big boot,” he said, “to kick everybody in the butt.”