On Super Bowl Sunday, Magic Johnson was super perfect.
Johnson scored 22 points, had 15 assists and grabbed 9 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers broke open a close game in the third quarter and routed the Celtics 104-87 for their 11th consecutive victory.Johnson 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," 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.
"They were doubling down on Kevin (McHale) and Robert (Parish)," Kevin Gamble of Boston said. "The spacing wasn't good. Sometimes it looks so easy out there, but it gets all clogged up. And LA knows how to get Chief (Parish) and Kevin off the blocks because they've been playing them for so many years."
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 jumpers. After Gamble scored on a layup, Sam Perkins and Johnson scored on drives and the rout was on.
Boston managed to remain 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 101/2 minutes remaining, the Lakers went on an 11-3 run.
"The Lakers played very well," Boston coach Chris Ford said. "They're on a roll. We played well for 24 minutes and then we did whatever they wanted us to do. We settled for the shots they hoped we would take."
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. Vlade Divac scored 16, and Scott and A.C. Green had 12 each.
McHale and Gamble scored 15 points each for Boston. Reggie Lewis had 12 and Parish 11 for the Celtics, also 30-11 at midseason.