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History week: 1980 Celtics vs. Lakers dream Finals, Games 1 & 2

What would have happened if the Celtics and Lakers met in a dream 1980 Finals matchup?

Game 1 recap

BOSTON - Despite all the star power on both rosters, it was perhaps the most unheralded player on either starting lineup who hit the biggest shot of the night to lead Boston to a close 112-109 championship series-opening victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nine-year veteran Celtic guard Chris Ford, who canned the first three-point goal in NBA history back in mid-October and shot 43 percent beyond the arc this season, sank his third triple in the final minute to give Boston a 112-107 lead.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar canned a right baseline hook with 32 seconds left to pull the Lakers within three. After a Boston miss, Jim Chones rebounded for Los Angeles to give the visitors one last chance to tie it with eight ticks remaining.

LA set up a three-pointer for rookie reserve Brad Holland, but he was covered closely, so sixth man Michael Cooper launched a right wing trey that misfired. Celtic center Dave Cowens came down with the clutch final rebound as time expired to preserve the hard-fought victory.

"We got a fairly good look at the end, but it just did not go down," said Laker rookie head coach Paul Westhead. "The three-pointer has not been much of a weapon for us all season. Our first option for the three was Brad, but they had him blanketed. It is awfully tough for him to come in cold and hit a long shot—it's sort of like asking a pinch hitter to come in and hit a triple."

Celtic rookie Larry Bird led the Celtics with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Cowens added 18 points and 11 caroms. Abdul-Jabbar topped all scorers with 31 points. Laker reserve Mark Landsberger snared 11 boards in just 23 minutes.

The game was close all the way, with LA leading by two at the half. The largest lead of the night was eight by the Lakers in the second period, but Boston pulled into an 81-81 tie at the end of three periods on a Bird trey.

Nate Archibald scored 17 points and dealt out eight assists. Cedric Maxwell contributed 16 points and eight rebounds. Ford added 11 markers on three triples as all five Celtic starters hit for double figures.

"We had good offensive balance, but you always have to guard against a big run from LA," said Boston coach Bill Fitch. "I remember the 21-0 blitz they put on us here back in January. They ran off something like 24 in a row in game four at Seattle to win that one, too. That spurt really won that series since it put them up 3-1 and really deflated the Sonics.

"That's one thing they can really do to a team, demoralize you with a quick burst," he added. "You can outplay them for 44 minutes yet lose due to a transition flurry, plus they have Abdul-Jabbar and Wilkes, plus Nixon who can really burn you in set-up situations. They are a very dangerous team."

Norm Nixon scored 19, Earvin Johnson 18 and Jamaal Wilkes 16 for LA to support Abdul-Jabbar.

It was the first time in three meetings this season that Boston was able to beat LA. The Lakers won convincingly in the Forum in December, and then rallied from a double-digit second half deficit to record a 100-98 win at the Boston Garden in mid-January.

Game 1 at Boston Garden

BOSTON 112 (1-0)

Bird 10-19 5-6 26, Maxwell 6-9 4-5 16, Cowens 8-17 2-3 18, Ford 4-10 0-0 11, Archibald 7-15 3-4 17, Carr 4-10 2-3 10, Maravich 4-7 0-0 9, Robey 1-2 1-2 3, Henderson 1-4 0-0 2, Judkins 0-1 0-0 0.

Totals: 45-94/17-23/112. 3-pointers (5-12): Bird 1-3, Ford 3-6, Maravich 1-2, Judkins 0-1. Team rebs-4.

LOS ANGELES 109 (0-1)

Wilkes 7-14 2-2 16, Chones 4-9 1-2 9, Jabbar 13-23 5-7 31, Johnson 7-15 4-4 18, Nixon 7-13 5-6 19, Cooper 3-7 2-3 8, Landsberger 2-5 1-2 5, Holland 1-3 0-0 3.

Totals: 44-90/20-26/109. 3-pointers (1-7) Holland 1-2, Wilkes 0-1, Cooper 0-2, Nixon 0-1, Johnson 0-1. Team rebs-3.

1 2 3 4 F

Boston 26 28 27 31 112

LA Lakers 29 27 25 28 109

Attendance: 15,320.

Total fouls: Boston 23, LA 21.

Rebounds-Boston 52 (Bird 12), LAL 48 (Landsberger 11). Assists: Boston 23 (Archibald 8), LA 24 (Johnson 9).

Game 2 recap

BOSTON - Los Angeles evened the championship series 1-1 with a tight win at Boston Garden, 108-104.

The contest was close all the way, but the Lakers clinched it on a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 13-foot hook shot as the shot clock wound down that provided a four-point lead with 11 seconds remaining to play.

Instead of going for a quick two-pointer, Boston's M.L. Carr fired a left side three-point try that missed. But before he could even get the shot off, he stepped on the sideline with four seconds remaining to seal the verdict.

The Lakers then in-bounded the ball and Michael Cooper dribbled out the clock before and slammed the ball to the parquet floor to punctuate the win at the buzzer before the stunned Celtics could foul to steal home court advantage heading back to California.

Abdul-Jabbar led all scorers with 29 points and added a team-high 12 rebounds. Jamaal Wilkes scored 19 points, Norm Nixon tallied 18 and Earvin Johnson added 17 in a balanced attack. Nixon also doled out 10 assists.

Larry Bird topped Boston with 21 points while Dave Cowens contributed 16 points and 14 caroms before fouling out. Nate Archibald scored 19 points and Bird also dished out seven assists.

The Lakers shot just over 50 percent from the field while Boston canned just 42 percent of its floor attempts. LA took a five-point lead after the opening period and nursed a small lead for most of the contest.

The Celtics inched within 106-104 on two Bird foul shots in the final minute, but Abdul-Jabbar answered with his trademark right baseline hook to put the game out of reach in the final seconds.

"You know it's coming, but it still awfully hard to defend," said Bird of the sky hook. "Dave did all he could, but he is giving away six inches in height and another half foot probably in reach."

The shot was reminiscent of the long running hook Abdul-Jabbar made late in double overtime of game six in the 1974 Finals at the Garden for Milwaukee to knot that memorable series 3-3. Yet the Celtics prevailed in game seven on the road behind series MVP John Havlicek and a great game from Cowens.

That unpredictable Finals six years ago, which featured five wins by the road team and two overtime classics (both won by Milwaukee) out of seven games seems a long time ago now.

The only Celtic currently on the roster now from 1974—other than Cowens—is veteran guard Don Chaney, a long-time defensive stalwart who left as a free agent in 1975 to play in the ABA and later for the Lakers before returning to Boston to finish his career.

"Duck" was a starter in 1974 but is not active for this Finals due to injury. He has the distinction of being the only man to play with both Bill Russell and Larry Bird, having been a rookie in Russell's last season when Boston beat LA in seven in 1969.

Thus Chaney bridged the gap from the old Celtic dynasty through the second run of the mid 1970s on to what Boston fans hope is the beginning of a third string of titles in the 1980s.

In 1974 Abdul-Jabbar was a Buck and teammate Oscar Robertson was in his swansong, and no Laker remains from what was also Jerry West's final season. All-Star Laker guard Gail Goodrich was traded to the Jazz in 1976 for their number one pick in 1979 - which three years later turned into Earvin Johnson.

"We have our work cut out for us now," said Boston head coach Bill Fitch. "They say it isn't truly a series until the road team wins a game. We need to get a split at least in LA."

Game 2 at Boston Garden

BOSTON 104 (1-1)

Bird 9-20 3-3 21, Maxwell 5-12 1-2 11, Cowens 7-16 2-3 16, Ford 3-9 0-0 7, Archibald 8-16 3-4 19, Carr 3-9 2-3 8, Maravich 3-9 2-2 9, Robey 4-7 1-2 9, Henderson 2-5 0-0 4, Judkins 0-0 0-0 0.

Totals: 44-103/14-19/104. 3-pointers (2-9): Bird 0-1, Ford 1-3, Maravich 1-3, Carr 0-2. Team rebs-5.

LOS ANGELES 108 (1-1)

Wilkes 9-16 1-2 19, Chones 3-7 2-2 8, Jabbar 12-22 5-7 29, Johnson 6-13 5-6 17, Nixon 8-14 2-2 18, Cooper 4-9 1-1 10, Landsberger 2-5 1-4 5, Holland 0-1 0-0 0, Byrnes 1-2 0-0 2.

Totals: 45-89/17-24/108. 3-pointers (1-4) Cooper 1-3, Holland 0-1. Team rebs-3.

1 2 3 4 F

Boston 22 26 28 28 104

LA Lakers 27 28 26 27 108

Attendance: 15,320

Rebounds-Boston 55 (Cowens 14), LA 52 (Jabbar 12). Assists: Boston 25 (Bird 7), LA 28 (Nixon 10). Total fouls: Boston 26, LA 23. Fouled out-Cowens.

Tune in tomorrow for an analysis of Games 3 and 4 in the hypothetical 1980 Celtics/Lakers Finals matchup.

To contact the author, you can email Cort Reynolds at cdrada2433@yahoo.com.