BOSTON, JUNE 7 -- The Los Angeles Lakers, moving at Maserati speed through the first two games, encountered traffic today in Boston Garden. The Lakers were counting on continued fast-break success and more high-profile performances from James Worthy to put a quick end to this NBA championship series against the Celtics.

But Worthy and his teammates found their paths literally blocked today by Celtics and lost, 109-103. Worthy, after making four of his first five shots, missed 11 of his final 13, including a late dunk. And after amassing 110 fast-break points the first two games, the Lakers managed to break out for 14 in Game 3. They had zero fast-break points in the second quarter.

"We never did get our break going like we wanted to, like we did in the first two games," Lakers center/forward Mychal Thompson said. "The Celtics did a great job of getting back on defense today. They looked like Carl Lewis and the Olympic sprint team, they got back so fast."

The Lakers' inability to get their running game going boiled down to three factors: the Celtics hit 58 percent of their shots the first half, making it difficult for the Lakers to shift into their rebound-and-run mode; the Celtics grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, and the Celtics knew that if they didn't stop the Lakers' break today, the series would be over.

As Celtics Coach K.C. Jones said, "All I was thinking about was to slow that Indianapolis 500 raceway that they were playing out there."

The Lakers figured Boston would do a better job, but not so dramatically. "I was surprised that the Celtics had all five guys back underneath the basket whenever we arrived," Los Angeles guard Michael Cooper said. "Their guards did a good job of getting in front of Magic {Johnson} and slowing him up for that 1 1/2 to 2 seconds that mean so much to a break. And they came out and played us on the wing at half court, so we couldn't just throw the ball over them into the middle."

Certainly, the Lakers are capable of winning without the fast break. Cooper, in fact, thought his team's half-court offense was better than respectable.

But neither offense -- half-court nor freeway -- is going to work very well if Worthy is as cold as he was today. He made only six of 18 shots from the field and finished with 13 points. He scored 33 and 23 in the first two games of this series.

Worthy has become Los Angeles' scorer in critical situations, but he couldn't produce today. Worthy said he simply missed shots he normally hits, but part of the problem was Boston's rotation of three defenders: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Greg Kite.

Lakers guard Byron Scott noted, "Every time James went into the middle, there were three guys there waiting for him."

Cooper said he thought Boston would have difficulty double-teaming Worthy if the Lakers' other front-court players had been hitting. "The Celtics came off A.C. Green and the other people they thought wouldn't hurt them," Cooper said.

Johnson said he thought Worthy's problems today were equal parts Celtics defense and Worthy being "out of sync."

Worthy was not as analytical. "I kept getting good shots, but they kept missing," he said. "I was hoping they'd fall, eventually. It was frustrating, having a game like this today. But I can't dwell on it and carry it with me into Game 4.

"You get some of your favorite shots and they still don't go . . . That happened to Larry {Bird} the first quarter, but he shot himself out of it."

Worthy did not. His only baskets in the second half were a turnaround jumper late in the third quarter that got the Lakers within 82-73, and an open dunk that cut Boston's lead to 108-103 in the final minute.

Cooper indicated he thought his team could have won, despite the troubles for Worthy and the running game. "We lost the game on second shots {Boston led in that department, 18-9} and hustle plays," he said. "They just worked really hard today. In L.A., we came up with those plays. Today they did, and you are going to win when you get them."

Even so, a few points from the right people might have changed today's game and the series. Starting forward Green took only three shots, two in the opening minutes after he took consecutive offensive rebounds. Scott missed seven of nine shots, including all five of his attempts from three-point land.

The Lakers were asked time and again about any possible momentum change after today's defeat. Most of them left the visiting dressing room not in a panic, but having seen the Celtics team they expected all along.

"They might have had blank stares on their faces in L.A.," Thompson said, "but they had fire in their eyes today . . . They looked like Mike Tyson just waiting for the bell."