On Super Bowl Sunday, Magic Johnson was super.
He had 22 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds yesterday as the Los Angeles Lakers broke open a close game in the third quarter and routed the Celtics, 104-87, in Boston for their 11th consecutive victory.
He admitted that he missed his usual duel with Larry Bird, sidelined with a back injury. But he said that former Celtic Dennis Johnson "was always my most difficult opponent."
"I'd like to have had him in there," Magic Johnson said when asked about Bird's absence. "They're a different team without him. He adds so much, just his presence on the floor. I miss him, the fans miss him, I think the whole country misses him."
The Celtics, who have lost six of their last seven, had won eight straight games on Super Bowl Sundays. Boston is 4-6 since Bird injured his lower back.
"The biggest thing for us today was our defense," Los Angeles Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Our defense is the main reason for us winning. Hopefully we'll peak by the playoffs. There isn't any team in the league we can't beat."
Los Angeles was without its leading scorer, James Worthy, who jammed his right foot Friday night. Still, the Lakers sent Boston to only its fourth loss in 21 home games.
There were 10 ties and the lead changed 21 times in the first half, which ended with Los Angeles ahead 53-51.
Then the Lakers pulled away as Johnson fed Byron Scott for a medium-range jumper. After Gamble scored on a layup, Sam Perkins and Johnson scored on drives and the rout was on.
Boston remained close as Brian Shaw scored half of his 20 points in the third period.
Los Angeles led 79-72 going into the final quarter. After Boston closed within six points with 10 1/2 minutes remaining, the Lakers went on an 11-3 run.
Perkins had 18 points and Mychal Thompson (playing his 900th NBA game) scored 17 for the Lakers, who are 30-11 at their halfway point. Boston also is 30-11.