INGLEWOOD, CALIF., JUNE 4 -- The Los Angeles Lakers dissected the Boston Celtics early, then blew them away with their devastating fast break tonight, taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA championship series. The score this time was 141-122 before a sellout crowd of 17,505 at the Forum.
The Lakers were fueled by Byron Scott's 24 points, 23 apiece from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, 22 by Magic Johnson, whose 20 assists were one short of his championship series record, and 21 points from substitute swing man Michael Cooper, who made a playoff-record six three-point field goals.
At times it seemed the Lakers' only competition was among themselves. In addition to his long-range marksmanship, Cooper had eight assists in the second quarter, tying yet another record held by, among others, Johnson. Not to be outdone, in the third period Johnson put his name back into the books with an equal number of feeds.
Larry Bird led Boston with 23 points and Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson had 20 each.
Game 3 of the series will be played Sunday at Boston Garden, where the Celtics have won 84 of their last 86 games but went 0-1 against the Lakers the past regular season. The Celtics now must become only the third team to overcome an 0-2 deficit in the title series if they are to become the first repeat champions since the 1968-69 Celtics.
But, until Game 2 tipped off, the Celtics gave the impression of having appeared to have life licked. Coach K.C. Jones quipped his way through the team's afternoon workout, Dennis Johnson hit the whirlpool at their hotel and his partner in the back court, Danny Ainge, even managed to make a run on the supply of potato chips and peanuts in the league's hospitality suite.
"Why shouldn't we be a little loosey-goosey?" asked assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers. "Tuesday was a big joke. We played the straight man for everyone and everyone had a big laugh. We played poorly but we can't play that badly again. I think we all know what we have to do."
One thing seemed certain, either the Celtics were very secure in that knowledge or they were very aware of a crueler fact: that they were playing a much superior team.
The Celtics might have guessed they were in for a repeat of Tuesday night's 126-113 loss when, 20 seconds into the game, they were called for an illegal defense violation. A short time afterward, Scott scored on an offensive rebound for Los Angeles.
When McHale and Dennis Johnson hit jumpers, though, it was 4-2 and the first time in the series that Boston had a lead. The Eastern Conference champions eventually managed to go ahead by five points, 19-14. Leading the way was Robert Parish. Limited to 16 points and four rebounds in the opener, the 7-foot all-star had five of those Celtics points.
Parish went on to beef his first-quarter totals to 12 points and six rebounds, and the Celtics, who hit six of their first seven shots from the field, were greatly improved over the initial 12 minutes of the opener. Yet they trailed, 38-34.
Los Angeles didn't display its devastating fast break of Game 1 with regularity, yet struck with a wide variety of scorers. During one stretch, Worthy scored three straight Lakers baskets, which were followed by six straight points from Scott. Later in the period, supersub Cooper came in to hit a pair of three-point field goals.
Los Angeles pulled away this time in the second quarter. After Bird made two free throws for the first points of the quarter, the Lakers upped their lead to 52-42. The last three points in the spurt came on another three-point basket by Cooper and began a stretch in which Cooper would account for his team's next 20 points, either on direct scores or assists.
At the end of that streak (which came with Magic Johnson on the bench), the Lakers were on top, 69-52.
In the final minute of the half, the Celtics got a scare when McHale, playing with both a sprained ankle and stress fracture in his right foot, pulled up lame. He was quickly replaced and was assisted to the Celtics' bench, where initial reports indicated that the all-star forward had merely suffered a cramp in the leg.
That might have been the only good news for Boston, which trailed 75-56 at intermission. The Lakers' 75 points represented the fourth-highest opening half ever in championship series play. Cooper ended the half with 15 points.
Scott and Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers in the half with 16 points each. Worthy had 10, and so did Magic Johnson, who also had seven assists. Bird and Parish had 14 points each for the Celtics. As in Game 1, the Celtics had an impressive mark from the field, 53 percent, but it paled compared to Los Angeles' 62 percent.
In the third quarter, Boston continued to find its good happenings trumped by the Lakers. Bird hit a three-point field goal to open the third quarter, making the score 75-59, but it soon was 90-69.
Dennis Johnson, three for nine from the field in the opening half and shooting six of 15 in the series, hit his next six shots from the field. McHale, who started the second half, increased his run of successful shots to seven straight. But, for all that marksmanship, the Celtics still trailed, 101-87.
At that point, the Lakers had a 40-4 edge in fast break points, but having seen the Celtics make a 6-0 run, Coach Pat Riley called for a timeout. When play resumed, Cooper hit his fifth three-point goal.