It all looked pretty familiar today in the NBA finals as the Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a 136-111 victory over the Boston Celtics to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 will be played here at the Forum Wednesday.
Today, James Worthy scored 29 points and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 26 to lead the Lakers. Kevin McHale was the game's high scorer with 31 points for Boston.
It was exactly 365 days ago that the same teams engaged in Game 3 of the title series. In that game, a 137-104 L.A. blowout, the Lakers took a 57-46 halftime lead and then came on with a 47-point third quarter.
This time around, it was 65-59, Los Angeles, at intermission. Then, executing their fast break to near perfection, the Lakers outscored Boston, 35-26, in the third period and 16-8 in the first five minutes of the fourth to take control of what was -- at one time -- a hotly contested game.
That was largely the result of the physical nature of the participants. As in their 109-102 victory in Game 2 Thursday, the Lakers refused to be cowed by Boston. Today, there were a number of skirmishes, McHale, for example, mixing it up at various times with Bob McAdoo, Magic Johnson and Kurt Rambis.
The climax came in the fourth period when the Celtics' Ray Williams was ejected from the game for wrestling with Rambis, then throwing him into the stands.
Surprisingly, however, both sides said afterward that the incidents were just part of the game as it's being played in the NBA these days. "It seems like every game is bigger than the last one," said the Lakers' Johnson, who scored 17 points and had 16 assists and nine rebounds.
"You're not gonna get a nice, easy game now; you can just forget about that. All you can do is play according to how the game is going, and no one wants to give the other team the edge. People see a couple of guys pushing each other and say the game is getting out of hand, but it wasn't. It's just a case of, 'If you push me, I'm gonna push you back.' "
Last season, the Celtics were able to overcome a 2-1 deficit and win the title. That comeback was based mainly on physical play, as characterized by McHale's flying tackle of Rambis.
There was little of that displayed today by Boston. After a 17-point, eight-rebound first half by Robert Parish, the Celtics' 7-foot center failed to add to those totals in the second half.
"We'd like to take the ball down low, but they're jamming the middle up too much with their big men," said the Celtics' Larry Bird, who was just eight of 21 from the field. "When they do that, it gives them inside position, which helps them get the ball and start running."
Boston was ahead, 48-38, with 7:16 to play in the first half when, in Bird's words, "the bottom fell out." From that point until the end of the half, the Lakers went on a 27-11 run, and 22 of their points came either on free throws or on shots from no more than 10 feet away.
"It wasn't so much what they were doing as what we weren't," Boston's Danny Ainge said. "We're just not executing very well on offense. We're not finding the open man or showing the patience we had in the first game. It's no one person but everybody on the team.
"They're packing it in against us but we're not taking good-percentage shots. We've got the shooters to make the Lakers pay for what they're doing, but we have to rotate the ball and find them."
Which is what the Lakers did, seemingly at will. Abdul-Jabbar, who became the all-time leading playoff scorer in the second half, had 12 of his points in the first 12 minutes of the game. In the second quarter, Worthy scored 12 points and then, in the first six minutes of the third period, scored eight more and the rout was on.
"I thought I started slow. My shots weren't falling and I neglected to shoot more," Worthy said. "But my confidence boosted in the second quarter and from then on I felt good."
It was in the championship series a year ago that Worthy began to make a big splash here in Glitterland, averaging more than 22 points a game. According to Lakers Coach Pat Riley, Worthy is ready for a similar effort.
"Some guys can do a good job by just playing naturally over the course of the regular season," he said. "In the playoffs, though, you have to go outside yourself, whether it's scoring or rebounding or whatever. That's what we're seeing now from James."