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THE NBA PLAYOFFS : Curtains for Jordan Fireworks : Celtics Hold Him to 19 and Sweep the Series

April 23, 1986|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Those kill-joys, the Boston Celtics, turned the lights out on Michael Jordan's season Tuesday night.

After his 49 and 63-point explosions in Boston Garden, they held Jordan to 19 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists and laid waste to the Bulls, 122-104, in a gangland-style execution. Jordan wound up with 131 points, the NBA record for a three-game playoff, eclipsing the 116 Wilt Chamberlain scored against Syracuse in 1960, but the Celtics wound up with a 3-0 sweep.

What didn't happen to Michael Jordan this season?

On Oct. 29, he took a bad step in his Air Jordans and broke a bone in his left foot. In early April, he had a bitter public squabble with Bulls management, charging that he was being "jerked around big-time," claiming his bosses didn't want him to come back because they were tanking it in an attempt to make the draft lottery.

And within three weeks of that, he had lofted the Bulls into the playoffs, then had bombed the Celtics. The effect was staggering. Where a month ago, people were still arguing who was the best player in the game, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, the argument may have been changed, to who do you like for the No. 2 player in the game, Magic or Bird?

"I think he's God disguised as Michael Jordan," Bird said after the 63-point game. "There is no question that Michael Jordan--healthy--is the best player in the league. He's the most awesome player in the NBA."

"He is undoubtedly the best guard I ever saw play this bleeping game," said Dennis Johnson, the designated bombee, a perennial all-defensive pick who helped hold Jordan to 40.3 points a game in this series.

"I knew Michael Jordan was a great player," said Danny Ainge, an alternate bombee, "but I never had any idea he was going to average 56 points for two games in Boston Garden. That was beyond my expectations."

Expectations? The world was all expectations. CBS got a Sunday rating 70% higher than a year ago. Tuesday's game sold out. The Celtics decided to junk the defensive scheme in which they played everyone honest, and double-teamed Jordan wherever they could.

Jordan, challenged, kept on firing, even if he had to hesitate and double-clutch and pick his way between bodies and whatnot. He knocked in 14 points in the first period, but after that, he got hip to the double-teams and started trying to hit open teammates, most of whom seemed to be at a total loss as to what was expected of them.

Also, the Bulls weren't what you'd call tack sharp on defense. They had the 260-pound Dave Corzine trying to guard Kevin McHale and Corzine couldn't find him, much less lay a glove on him. McHale had 23 points by halftime, and the Celtics had a 66-52 lead. It is not often that the Celtics blow 14-point leads over such as the Bulls and this wasn't one of those times.

Jordan spent most of the rest of the evening collecting fouls. He had three with 9:28 left in the first half, which generally means an automatic seat on the bench. But Coach Stan Albeck, obviously fearing the worst, gambled and left him in. Early in the third quarter, Jordan picked up No. 4 and with 5:24 left in the game, he was up to No. 6 and by-by. Along the way, he also picked up a technical foul, which he said was a career first, other than the ones he got in college for hanging on the rim, or the rafters, or whatever.

Albeck managed to draw two technicals, resulting in his ejection moments later. Jordan's sense of humor seemed to rally shortly thereafter. When a ballboy chased down a dime that a fan had thrown on the floor, Jordan signaled for him to throw it to him. When the ballboy did, Jordan put it into his sock, and grinned.

"I'm happy with what we did this season," Jordan said later. "In the future, hopefully we'll have more players who are given respect. Then you don't have to worry about double-teams. With the supporting cast that Bird has, you can't double-team, or he goes to McHale, he goes to (Robert) Parrish.

"How will I remember this season? In a way, it was easy because I didn't play a lot. But it wasn't easy. I think I learned something from the experience. I think I matured. I still wouldn't want to go through that again.

"I think I proved something to myself, to management, to the doctors. Ninety-five per cent of the time, the doctors are right but 5% they are wrong.

"I didn't think I was taking a chance. I think I proved something to myself and to management, that I'm a very competent young man, that I can make decisions for myself. That if I think I'm ready to play, at least I should be listened to.

"The games in Boston Garden, those were good days. No one should expect that every night. But I know how it is. That's the way society and the fans are.

"This is only my second (pro) year. I'd like to play at least eight more seasons. I don't know what I'll encounter in the next eight years. But some of the comments they (Celtics) made about me, I'm going to cherish a whole lot. That's something that is going to mean a lot. I feel very proud. I feel very happy. My game has progressed so much, just getting into the NBA.

"Surprise myself? I did. I thought the 49-point game was the best I could play and the next night, I played better. I am surprised."

It was a nice surprise for everyone. What does he do next year, come out of a coffin? Off a launching pad? The sky is the limit, or maybe it's the universe.

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