BOSTON, JUNE 9 -- Usually, it's the other team, not the Celtics, that sits in the dressing room, angry and frustrated about losing a lead in the final two minutes of a playoff game at Boston Garden. Tonight, it was the Celtics, and they didn't like the feeling one bit.

Boston Coach K.C. Jones struck out at referee Earl Strom, saying, "I was disappointed in Earl . . . I thought he had a Laker uniform on. I was totally disappointed in him making no calls under the basket . . . Earl, I thought, was particularly bad. But if this will cost me something {in fines}, then I didn't say a thing."

As the game ended, Celtics President Red Auerbach virtually chased Strom off the court, berating him for what he perceived to be bias toward Los Angeles. In the final quarter, the Lakers had 14 free throws, the Celtics one.

"Strom, you've got no guts," said Auerbach. "Just like you've got no class," responded Strom.

There was a sour taste everywhere in the home team's locker room. "It was a very winnable game," Kevin McHale said over and over. "And to not win it is so frustrating . . . We had our opportunities all the way down the line. They miss a free throw and still get the rebound back . . . All we had to do was come up with one defensive play."

But the Celtics weren't up to it tonight. Usually, it's Larry Bird who sits in the winner's circle, answering questions about how his last-second shot went in, or how he made the steal and the pass with five seconds left, or how he grabbed the rebound of a teammate's missed shot and stuck it in.

Tonight, however, there was no consoling Bird, whose desperation shot with one second left bounced off the back rim, giving the Lakers the victory.

"There were two seconds left on the clock {when Dennis Johnson threw the inbounds pass to Bird}, and I thought that they would try to grab me because they had a foul to waste," Bird said. "I didn't know who was coming at me but I knew I had beat {James} Worthy. I could have taken more time if they had been in the penalty, but I just had to throw it up.

"It was there. I didn't know if I'd made it or not because I was floating to the left. But it was on target. It was either short, long or in the hole."

Jones said, "On that last play, I got exactly what I wanted. It got to Bird and he went for it."

It wasn't Bird's miss, however, that made the Celtics most disconsolate; it was not grabbing the missed free throw by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with eight seconds left and the Lakers down by 106-105.

A Celtics rebound then would have given them the ball and a chance to run out the clock. "We made mistakes at the end of the game," Bird said. "We gave the ball away and lost the rebound, so we can't blame anyone but ourselves."

The officials ruled the ball went off McHale's hands and out of bounds.

As it turned out, that was just one of several opportunities missed by the Celtics. Boston could review it all: blowing a 16-point lead, Robert Parish having the ball stripped from him 18 feet from the basket and Michael Cooper hitting a wide-open three-pointer to cut a six-point Lakers deficit to 103-100 with just more than a minute to play.

"When Cooper stopped on the break and hit the three-pointer," Bird said, "that broke our backs even though we were still ahead. If he had missed that shot, we would have won it . . .

"We have our backs completely against the wall," Bird said. "We haven't been a good road team all year. I thought we had to win all three at home . . . Now, we really have our work cut out for us."

This was the kind of loss the Celtics usually don't have to account for. "We just gave it away during the last two minutes of the third and fourth quarters," McHale said.

The Celtics know they're in a deep hole now. Two of the next three games (if necessary) are at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

"This was one of those kind of games you rarely see," Jones said. "But I really must give credit to the Lakers. They stayed in even when they were really down. They don't come tougher than this . . . It was an all-time great ball game."