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History week: 1980 Celtics vs. Lakers dream Finals, Games 5 & 6

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

Game 5 recap

BOSTON - For the first time in the series, Boston thoroughly dominated and led throughout to seize a 3-2 lead with a 120-103 thrashing of visiting Los Angeles.

The Celtics jumped out to an eight-point lead after one period and extended it to as much as 14 before leading by 13 at the half. The Lakers never got closer than nine in the second half as Boston rolled to its second consecutive win in the rollercoaster series.

The victory put the Celtics within one victory of its 14th title and an 8-0 all-time Finals record vs. the Lakers (their first win over the Lakers was a sweep in 1959 during their last season in Minneapolis).

Despite 95-degree temperatures in the old Garden, Larry Bird scored 27 points and yanked down 17 rebounds to pace the victory.

"The difference tonight was Mr. Bird," said Laker coach Paul Westhead. "Everyone else was tired but he looked fresh as a daisy out there."

"Aw heck, I play in hotter weather back in Indiana in the summer," downplayed Bird of the oppressive conditions in the Garden, which lacks air conditioning. "The heat and humidity help me get loose easier. I actually like it."

Boston out-rebounded LA for the fourth time in the series, 59-51. Dave Cowens added 13 caroms to Bird's total while also scoring 20 points to negate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who posted 21 and 11.

Norm Nixon led the Lakers with 25 points. Six Celtics hit for double figures while two others tallied eight.

"It was our best game of the series so far," admitted notoriously hard to please Celtic coach Bill Fitch. "But we still have to win one more."

Boston shot its best percentage from the field all series at 52 percent (48-92). The Lakers canned just 43 percent (42-99) of its floor tries.

"We need to regroup, get back to LA and even the series," noted Westhead.

Game 5 at Boston Garden

BOSTON 120 (3-2)

Bird 11-22 5-6 27, Maxwell 5-8 4-5 14, Cowens 9-14 2-2 20, Ford 3-6 0-0 8, Archibald 5-10 3-4 13, Carr 4-8 2-3 11, Maravich 5-10 3-4 0-0 14, Robey 4-9 0-1 8, Henderson 1-2 1-1 3, Judkins 1-2 0-0 2, Fernsten 0-1 0-0 0.

Totals: 48-92/20-27/120. 3-pointers (4-13): Ford 2-5, Maravich 1-3, Carr 1-4, Judkins 0-1. Team rebs-3.

LOS ANGELES 103 (2-3)

Wilkes 5-15 1-2 11, Chones 6-12 2-3 14, Jabbar 10-21 1-2 21, Johnson 4-13 4-5 12, Nixon 10-19 5-6 25, Cooper 2-7 2-3 6, Landsberger 1-4 2-4 4, Holland 2-4 0-0 6, Byrnes 1-3 0-0 2, Lee 1-2 0-0 2.

Totals: 42-99/17-25/109. 3-pointers: (2-7) Holland 2-3. Team rebs-3.

1 2 3 4 F

Boston 34 30 26 30 120

LA Lakers 26 25 24 28 103

Attendance: 15,320

Rebounds-Boston 59 (Bird 17), LAL 51 (Jabbar 11). Assists: Boston 32 (Archibald/Bird 9), LA 25 (Johnson 8). Total fouls: Boston 22, LA 25.

Game 6 recap

LOS ANGELES - Trailing by 11 early in the third period with championship elimination staring them in the face, the Los Angeles Lakers dug deep and outscored Boston 55-37 over the final 21 minutes to beat Boston 114-107 and even their epic title series at three games apiece.

League MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Jamaal Wilkes contributed 22 points as all five Laker starters scored in double figures.

Larry Bird topped Boston with 28 points and 13 rebounds. But with center Dave Cowens plagued by foul trouble and Cedric Maxwell and Chris Ford struggling, reserve Pete Maravich was the second-leading Celtic scorer with 17 markers.

Veteran playmaker Nate Archibald chipped in 15 points and seven assists. Norm Nixon amassed 18 points and six assists for LA while Earvin Johnson added 17 points and nine assists.

The Lakers sank just one more field goal than Boston, which shot just 44 percent from the floor. But the big difference came at the charity stripe, where the host Lakers tried 14 more free throws than Boston and outscored the Celtics 27-18.

The free throw line discrepancy was not lost on Bill Fitch, nor on Celtic patriarch Red Auerbach. "It sure seemed like they wanted a seventh game," snored Fitch. "We got called for 10 more fouls and Dave only played 25 minutes. Every time he touched Kareem, he got the whistle."

"The officiating really cost us," fumed Auerbach. "I won't say anymore because I don't want to get fined, but it's probably too late for that. Hopefully things will be different back in the Garden for game seven."

The Lakers predictably did not see the free-throw discrepancy as suspicious. "When you foul more, those things happen," explained Jabbar.

"We feel like Dave Cowens has been getting away with pushing Kareem all series, as well as going over the back on offensive rebounds," said Laker head coach Paul Westhead. "Dave is a great leaper and player, but if he is allowed to nudge you under the boards he will kill you on the offensive glass all game."

Once again the fast-breaking Lakers shot well over 50 percent from the floor as they sank 43 of 81 tries. The transition game was a key in their second half comeback. LA tallied 23 second half fast break points and the Celtics could not contain their transition game.

A lack of offensive rebounding on their lackluster shooting hurt Boston's chances to slow down the Lakers. Boston led 70-59 after a Bird jumper with just over nine minutes left in the third stanza, and it looked like the Celtics might well be celebrating their 13th title in the Forum.

But then Jabbar, Johnson, Nixon and Wilkes took over and Boston went cold while inexplicably not feeding the hot-handed Bird. Johnson and Nixon keyed the break while Jabbar scored at will in the halfcourt game over backup center Rick Robey and foul-plagued Cowens.

When Kareem didn't score, silent assassin Wilkes burned Boston with several of his unorthodox mid-range jumpers.

"I guess we will have to clinch it in Boston the hard way," said Bird. "I thought we shoulda swept them."

"We'll be there," said Jabbar when told of Bird's remarks.

"After almost a hundred games, it all comes down to one more for all the marbles," said effusive rookie Johnson. "This is what everyone has been waiting for, so it's hitch up your wagons and go.

"Hopefully game seven will be a repeat of what happened last year in our one-game showdown," added Johnson of his rivalry with Bird, chuckling. "He can have the Rookie of the Year as long as I get the ring."

Game 6 at LA Forum

BOSTON 107 (3-3)

Bird 11-23 5-5 28, Maxwell 3-8 1-2 7, Cowens 4-11 2-2 10, Ford 3-7 0-0 7, Archibald 6-12 3-4 15, Carr 5-11 2-3 13, Maravich 6-14 3-3 17, Robey 3-5 2-4 8, Henderson 1-3 0-0 2, Judkins 0-2 0-0 0, Fernsten 0.

Totals: 42-96/18-23/107. 3-pointers (5-16): Maravich 2-4, Bird 1-3, Ford 1-4, Carr 1-3, Judkins 0-2. Team rebs-2.

LOS ANGELES 119 (3-3)

Wilkes 8-16 6-8 22, Chones 5-7 1-2 11, Jabbar 10-19 7-10 27, Johnson 6-12 5-6 17, Nixon 6-13 6-8 18, Cooper 3-5 2-2 9, Landsberger 3-6 0-1 6, Holland 2-2 0-0 4. Byrnes 0-1 0-0 0.

Totals: 43-81/27-37/114. 3-pointers (1-3) Cooper 1-2, Nixon 0-1. Team rebs-3.

1 2 3 4 F

Boston 29 27 25 26 107

LA Lakers 26 25 28 35 114

Attendance: 17,505

Rebounds-Boston 54 (Bird 13), LAL 58 (Jabbar 13). Assists: Boston 24 (Archibald 7), LA 31 (Johnson 9). Fouled out-Cowens. Total fouls: Boston 31, LA 21.

Tune in tomorrow for an analysis of Game 7 in the hypothetical 1980 Celtics/Lakers Finals matchup.

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