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History week: 1980 Celtics vs. Lakers dream Finals, Games 3 & 4

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

Game 3 recap

LOS ANGELES - Behind their devastating fast break, the host Los Angeles Lakers raced to an 11-point first period lead and cruised to a 122-110 win over Boston in the Forum.

The blowout victory gave the Lakers their first lead in the best-of-seven championship series, 2-1.

LA scored 33 transition points and placed all five starters in double figures. Rookie Earvin Johnson posted a near triple-double with a game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar contributed 23 points and nine rebounds while Norm Nixon added 18 points and 10 assists. Jamaal Wilkes netted 21 markers.

Cedric Maxwell topped Boston with 18 points and eight caroms. Foul-plagued Dave Cowens added 10 boards before fouling out for the second game in a row after just 26 minutes of action. Rookie of the Year Larry Bird was limited to 16 points and 6 caroms.

Veteran Celtic playmaker Nate Archibald amassed 15 points and 7 assists while M. L. Carr and Pete Maravich each added 13 points off the bench.

For the first time in the three title-series games the Lakers out-rebounded Boston, 53-51. Reserve LA power forward Mark Landsberger snared a game-high 14 boards, including seven on the offensive glass, in just 23 minutes.

"We let them get off to a fast start, their fans got involved, and we never were really in it," said Boston first-year head coach Bill Fitch. Fitch guided the Celtics to a 32-win improvement and a league-best 61-21 record in 1979-80, but he had no answers for the LA attack.

"When they run and get easy transition baskets, then shoot well in the halfcourt offense, they are awfully hard to beat," he offered. "We like to run too, yet we got only 10 fats break points. We have to slow down their break and get ours going. Offensive rebounding will be key."

The Lakers, who led the NBA in field goal percentage, shot 54 percent from the field (48 for 89) in the win. Rookie guard Brad Holland, a sharpshooter from UCLA who was the last player recruited by legendary Bruin coach John Wooden, came off the bench to add 10 points in just 14 minutes.

"We played almost as well as we can offensively," noted Laker head coach Paul Westhead. "Every starter shot 50 percent or better."

LA sank 80 percent of its charity stripe tries (24-32) while Boston made 18 of 26 from the foul line.

"We will have to play harder and better in game four or we will be heading back to Boston down 3-1," warned Bird.

Game 3 at LA Forum

BOSTON 110 (1-2)

Bird 7-14 2-2 16, Maxwell 8-13 2-3 18, Cowens 4-11 3-4 11, Ford 1-4 0-0 3, Archibald 6-16 3-4 15, Carr 5-12 2-3 13, Maravich 5-11 2-2 13, Robey 4-9 2-4 10, Henderson 3-6 1-2 7, Judkins 1-3 0-0 3, Fernsten 0-2 1-2 1.

Totals: 44-101/18-26/110. 3-pointers (4-12): Ford 1-3, Maravich 1-2, Carr 1-4, Judkins 1-2, Bird 0-1. Team rebs-5.

LOS ANGELES 122 (2-1)

Wilkes 8-15 5-7 21, Chones 6-10 1-2 13, Jabbar 10-17 3-5 23, Johnson 8-16 8-9 24, Nixon 7-12 4-5 18, Cooper 3-6 2-2 8, Landsberger 2-6 1-2 5, Holland 4-7 0-0 10, Byrnes 0, Lee 0.

Totals: 48-89/24-32/122. 3-pointers (2-5) Holland 2-3, Cooper 0-1. Team rebs-5.

1 2 3 4 F

Boston 21 25 25 39 110

LA Lakers 32 26 25 39 122

Attendance: 17,505

Rebounds-Boston 51 (Cowens 10), LAL 53 (Landsberger (14). Assists: Boston 22 (Archibald 7), LA 30 (Nixon 10). Total fouls-LA 24, Boston 29. Fouled out-Cowens. Technical foul-Boston coach Fitch.

Game 4 recap

LOS ANGELES - Game four of the 1980 NBA championship series was a must win for the Celtics on the road at arch-rival Los Angeles—no team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win.

That made the 139-133 overtime Celtic victory critically necessary for Boston's chances to win their 14th NBA championship.

Rookie Larry Bird poured in 34 points and grabbed a series-high total of 21 rebounds to pace Boston to the series-tying victory. Bird also hit two clutch foul shots with 16 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 122-122.

"Those might have been the two biggest free throws of my life," admitted Bird. "All those mornings of getting up early to shoot free throws before school started paid off. If I don't make them, our chances of winning ain't too good."

The Lakers still had an opportunity to win it in the final seconds of the fourth period, but Earvin Johnson's entry pass intended for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was picked off by Cedric Maxwell.

In the OT, Bird untied it with a 13-foot fallaway jumper over Johnson on a switch to give Boston a 135-133 edge they never relinquished.

After a Laker miss, veteran playmaker Nate Archibald canned two clutch free throws. Sixth man M.L. Carr then came up with a steal and breakaway dunk to seal the verdict.

"I said we would be back in LA (for game six)," exclaimed Carr. "Everyone wrote us off after game three like the series would be over in five, but I said we would return for game six. Now when we come back we will be up 3-2 and finish it off then in front of the Laker fans."

"We had our chance to take a commanding lead with a win, but the difference tonight was Mr. Bird—he was too much," said Laker head coach Paul Westhead. "He wouldn't let Boston lose. Once Kareem fouled out in overtime, our halfcourt offense struggled and that turned Dave Cowens loose a little bit too.

"Cowens hit some big shots in overtime," he continued. "Mark (Landsberger) did the best he could to stay with him, but Dave is still pretty quick and athletic. And once you get up on him to defend the outside shot, he can go around you. He hurt us late."

Cowens supported Bird with 21 points, including six of their 17 in the extra session with Jabbar sidelined. Archibald contributed 18 markers and a dozen assists. Pete Maravich added 17 points off the bench while Carr chipped in with a dozen off the pines as the Boston bench outscored theLaker reserves, 44-29. Cedric Maxwell also amassed 16 points.

Jabbar led LA with 33 points before fouling out early in overtime. Meanwhile Johnson compiled 14 assists to go with 25 points. Norm Nixon tallied 20, and Jamaal Wilkes added 18 markers.

Laker backup power forward/center Landsberger snared 13 rebounds to lead LA in that department off the bench, but Boston won the all-important battle of the boards, 70-59. A total of 27 Celtic rebounds came on the offensive glass, which helped slow the Laker fast break.

"Our defense was better—we held them under 50 percent field-goal shooting," noted Celtic head coach Bill Fitch. "Our rebounding was big as it gave us some easy points on stick backs, and kept them from running. We were able to better control the tempo with our offensive rebounding."

The series now shifts back to Boston for game five. However, the Lakers are 2-1 in Boston Garden thus far this season, so they remain confident in their ability to win the title.

"It's now a best-two-out-of-three series," said Westhead. "Whoever wins game five will be in the driver's seat."

"We just have to go back east and get the job done," said Jabbar. "We have won there before. Six years ago I made a running hook at the end of double overtime to tie the Finals 3-3. We won there in game two and in the regular season. The rims are 10 feet above the parquet there, too, just like here.

"I don't believe in leprechauns and ghosts floating around in the rafters among all the banners," he added.

Game 4 at LA Forum

BOSTON 139 (2-2)

Bird 14-20 5-6 34, Maxwell 5-9 6-8 16, Cowens 9-21 3-4 21, Ford 2-5 0-0 6, Archibald 6-15 6-7 18, Carr 4-11 3-4 12, Maravich 7-17 3-3 17, Robey 3-6 2-4 8, Henderson 3-7 1-2 7, Judkins 0-2 0-0 0, Fernsten 0.

Totals: 53-113/29-38/139. 3-pointers (4-11): Ford 2-4, Bird 1-2, Carr 1-3, Maravich 0-1, Judkins 0-1. Team rebs-6.

LOS ANGELES 133 (2-2)

Wilkes 7-18 4-6 18, Chones 3-7 2-2 8, Jabbar 14-25 5-8 33, Johnson 8-18 9-10 25, Nixon 8-16 4-5 20, Cooper 4-9 1-2 10, Landsberger 3-6 1-3 7, Holland 2-5 0-0 5, Byrnes 2-4 0-0 4, Lee 1-2 1-2 3.

Totals: 52-110/27-40/133. 3-pointers (2-5): Cooper 1-3, Holland 1-2. Team rebs-5.

1 2 3 4 OT F

Boston 27 30 29 36 17 139

LA Lakers 33 29 27 33 11 133

Attendance: 17,505

Rebounds-Boston 70 (Bird 21), LAL 59 (Landsberger 13). Assists: Boston 33 (Archibald 12), LA 32 (Johnson 14). Fouled out-Jabbar, Cowens, Wilkes. Total fouls-LA 31, Boston 32. Technical-Jabbar.

Tune in tomorrow for an analysis of Games 5 and 6 in the hypothetical 1980 Celtics/Lakers Finals matchup.

To contact the author, you can email Cort Reynolds at

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