INGLEWOOD,CALIF. -- Well, it was finally done with, finished. They'd lost. "We played hard," Larry Bird said after the Boston Celtics were beaten, 106-93, Sunday and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship. "We found out we had absolutely no quitters on our team."

The season had been stitched together by injuries, a bridge of flimsy tape, broken bone and torn muscle that the Celtics had almost crossed, almost, from the happy end of last year to another happy end this year. Two games short of the other side and everything had collapsed.

"It's got to make us feel proud as a team," Bird said. "If we'd won this championship, this would have been one of the great ones ever, and we knew that. You can talk heart and dedication and hard work all day long, but our goal was to win a championship, and we didn't do it."

The goal had been within reach only 24 minutes from the end of their season. The Celtics were ahead, 56-51. "We'd played very well in the first half," Bird said. But he faced a decision. Would he try to take control of the game after shooting three for eight in the half, or would he row the boat along with everyone else?

"It seems like every time I've had a bad first half, it seems we've been up," Bird said. He knew he wasn't shooting well, and he felt that the game plan was solid: Let the Lakers defense come to him while opening driving lanes for the Celtics guards.

"They {the Celtics coaches} wanted to drive everything to the hole," Bird said. "But it seems like every time I start thinking that way, I have a tough time with my shooting outside. It's something I've got to work on. We were being successful with it, but sometimes it makes you forget about the outside shot, and you shouldn't let that happen. There's no question I was struggling with my outside shot."

Bird would not excuse himself after shooting a disappointing .445 (53 of 119) in the six-game series, averaging 24.2 points. "I didn't shoot the ball well in this series," he said. "I had a lot of opportunities around the basket, and I didn't get them to drop. I missed more easy shots in this series than I ever have."

The Celtics were given little chance against the Lakers. "Everybody was talking sweep, which they probably should have been, because we were going with only five or six players," Bird said. It appeared that Boston's only chance depended upon Bird. Did the overwhelming needs of his team affect him?

"To tell you the truth, I look at the game a lot different than other people," Bird said. ". . . I don't look at myself as the best player in the world. I look at myself as a player in the NBA. I figure if I play well, it's because I play hard. Some nights the ball's not going to go in the hole. Some nights you're not going to live up to your capabilities. I just try to play as hard as I can, and when I have a bad game, I'm able to walk away and say I played as hard as I could."

This season, his eighth, had expired an hour earlier. He had lost. He was next planning a return home to French Lick, Ind.

"There are some things I want to work on," Bird said. "I know what I've got to do. I have to get a little stronger, stay in shape this summer . . . I'm going to lift a little weights for the first time ever. I never believed in it before. It might cut down on my speed."

He laughed at that. But he did not laugh when he said he would begin working out a week from today. "Yep, Monday," Bird said. "The summer's short."