Ah, the Garden . . .
A workman screws down a square of the parquet floor two hours before game time. Or is he putting in bad bounces? Do the Celtics get a map of this minefield?
A stick microphone is taped to press row, aimed at the Laker bench. Did NBC put it there or Red Auerbach? Without waiting for an answer, Laker trainer Gary Vitti untapes it, puts it under the press table and asks writers to kick it down toward halfcourt.
Is there anything sweeter for a Laker than putting it to the home team here? Sunday was one Super day for the visitors, after they spotted the Celtics James Worthy to offset the injured Larry Bird, overmatched them, 104-87, and banished their fans home to their TV sets early.
By game’s end, Elden Campbell and Irving Thomas were in. Mike Dunleavy was telling jokes in the huddle. Referee Eddie Rush was kidding Dunleavy that he had broken Billy Cunningham’s record for yelling, “Get McHale out of the lane!”
The Lakers have won 11 in a row and 16 of 18. At the halfway point, they’re 30-11--the same as the Celtics--after a 2-5 start.
Since their first seven games, they have the NBA’s best record, 28-6.
The Celtics’ ancient haunted house was a theme park Sunday. Lakers rose from obscurity and slumps. The reserve guards contributed. Mychal Thompson, rusty as an abandoned tractor, played 30 minutes in Worthy’s absence, made six of seven shots and finished with 17 points.
Thompson has handled his new estate as you would expect: as a straight line for a new comedy routine.
Did Shawn Kemp announce he was going to bust Mychal before the Seattle game? Thompson replied, “He’d better chase a loose ball over to the bench and run into me.”
Sunday, he said not playing was OK by him.
“I’m telling you,” he said. “I tell my wife the same thing.
“I look at it this way: I’m resting up. I’m saving my legs for the end of the season.”
Said Magic Johnson: “Yeah, it hurts him. He’s a competitor. You know what? He won’t be sitting any more. He was the key today. Great defensive effort, super offense.
“You know what? I love Mychal for that--because he never said anything about not playing.”
The game was a gritty one until it became a one-sided one. The Lakers led, 79-72, after three periods. Then Celtic Coach Chris Ford tried a zone trap, and the Lakers zoomed to a 21-point lead.
“We played the first quarter well,” Ford said, “and then we did whatever they wanted us to. We settled for the shots they hoped we would take.”
And missed them, too.
The Celtics, who had been struggling without Bird, kept struggling: Reggie Lewis went four for 15; Dee Brown went two for eight.
The Lakers double-teamed Kevin McHale, the new go-to guy, and held him to six-of-13 shooting. Vlade Divac outscored Robert Parish, 16-11.
Laker defense, generally overshadowed by talk of Showtime, has been getting more impressive all season. That they’re working hard at it can be inferred from the fact that they’re rarely called for being illegal. When they were whistled for one at New Jersey, they argued heatedly, pointing out they were only double-teaming and rotating. Mistaken or not, they were thinking about what they were doing.
Said Johnson: “Coach Dunleavy brought in a scheme, first defense, second offense.”
Third, go home and celebrate. The Lakers went 5-0 on the trip. They have won 14 road games, second to Portland’s 15. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Suns and 3 1/2 ahead of the Jazz.
It may have been a while coming and it is still a long season, but for one glorious day at least, it was super to be a Laker.
Magic Johnson, still hoping to hook up with Larry Bird in the NBA finals: “You’re going to see both these teams have a say-so in what happens. You can believe that.” . . . Johnson had hoped to talk to Bird at the game, but since injuring his back, Bird has stopped attending games. “I sent him three messages,” Johnson said. “I told him I knew he was at home yelling at his wife because he can’t play.”
Mychal Thompson, on the Lakers’ transition: “Pat Riley did a lot for us. But when you come right down to it, Magic didn’t retire or quit. James (Worthy) didn’t. Byron (Scott) didn’t.” . . . Johnson had 22 points, 15 assists, nine rebounds. Thompson, asked if Johnson had been a key: “That’s like saying oxygen is the key to life. Without him we have no chance.” . . . The Lakers decided shortly before the game not to risk Worthy’s assumed-to-be-sprained right foot. “He has a lot of soft tissue pain,” Gary Vitti said, “but he also has a lot of pain on the bone.” Worthy is to be re-examined today in Los Angeles.
Reserve point guard Tony Smith played well, scoring three points with Johnson resting in the first half, two more with Johnson out in the second. . . . Terry Teagle missed all three of his shots and committed two turnovers in the first half, then made a driving layup and a 17-foot jumper at the start of the fourth quarter to start the blowout. . . . The NBA set up that stick microphone pointed at the Laker huddle. There was another aimed at the other huddle; The Celtics took it out, too.