Going back in time to bad old days

June 18, 2008|MARK HEISLER

BOSTON -- Maybe the Lakers should have quit this rivalry while they were ahead.

After a 21-year break to enjoy their 1987 Finals victory that followed their 1985 breakthrough -- after having lost the first eight -- the Lakers saw the Celtics turn the hands of time all the way back to the '60s when Boston ruled everyone, especially them.

In those days, Bill Russell dominated them. In this Finals, it was no single Celtic but a suffocating team defense, although the effect was the same.

By Game 6, the flashy, high-scoring and favored Lakers who had started the series were no more.

All that was left was a confused, overmatched, soft little band of Lakers, circling the perimeter of the Boston defense like ants who couldn't get out of the rain as 21 years of frustration fell on their heads in the Celtics' 131-92 rout.

Alert! Alert! Alert!

For fans who aren't old enough to remember the era when the Lakers' hearts were always being questioned, you're about to get a refresher course.

Of course, it's not every Finals loser that can look forward to adding a 21-year-old seven-foot center but the Lakers will if Andrew Bynum returns.

Looking no more fazed than usual, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was asked afterward if he was surprised by the final score.

"I don't know what the final score was," he said. "Let me look it up for you."

He glanced down at a box score.

"Yes," said Jackson.

Hard as it may be to believe, the Lakers started this series as the favorite after going 12-3 in the first three rounds while the Celtics went seven games with Atlanta, seven more with Cleveland and six with Detroit.

By then the Celtics looked out on their feet, only to arise, looking refreshed in this series.

Nevertheless, Boston Coach Doc Rivers worried about their endurance right to the end, making no secret of his concern about the fast turnaround as the teams changed coasts between Games 5 and 6.

Of course, if Red Auerbach still watches over the Celtics, as Jackson joked when Minnesota General Manager Kevin McHale traded Kevin Garnett to his old team, an unseen force seemed to guide the Lakers, at least where their opponents' mode of transportation was involved.

After the Denver Nuggets' bus caught fire on the way to Game 1 in the first round and the San Antonio Spurs spent the night on their plane trying to fly to Los Angeles for the Western Conference finals, the Celtics had to sit around for three hours Monday, waiting for a new plane when theirs had mechanical trouble.

In keeping with the spirit of Lakers-Celtics rivalry, Rivers suggested a Lakers plot.

"Why don't you call Mitch Kupchak and Phil," said Rivers before the game, laughing. "They'll probably tell you exactly what happened.

"It was a long day, it really was. . . .

"We were supposed to leave at 11 a.m. and they called us at nine and told us we had to run to the bus because the first plane had broken down.

"So we were going to get on the other one that was leaving. And when we get there at the gate, we see the Laker plane taking off.

"And I was saying, 'Oh, this is nice.' "

If energy was any kind of a problem, it was nothing compared to the Lakers' issues with the Boston defense.

This was a rout from the opening tip, masked by the fact that Kobe Bryant hit three three-pointers in the first quarter, keeping the Lakers within 24-20.

In the real news, they made only five shots in the first quarter, of which just one -- a layup by Luke Walton -- came inside 20 feet.

The pattern continued in the second quarter, Bryant went cold from the outside and after that, it was like driving a bulldozer through an ant colony.

It was 58-35 at halftime, by which time garbage time had already started.

The ending was as humiliating for the Lakers as it could be as the Celtics poured it on, the fans sang, "Na na na na na na na, hey, hey goodbye," and Paul Pierce emptied the Gatorade barrel over Rivers.

The only thing missing was the cigar smoke but the Lakers should be able to remember this one without it.


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