?The bullpen. When Cooper is a starter, the Laker bench, with the exception of Thompson, looks like something out of the CBA. Or worse, it looks like something out of Boston. Jones's substitution rotation this season has had neither design nor pattern, and, consequently, no Celtic reserve—from rookies Brad Lohaus and Reggie Lewis to veterans Sichting and Darren Daye—has a clue about his role. Against L.A., for example, Sichting played often and well (27 minutes, 17 points), but Daye, whose quickness would seem to be an effective weapon against the Lakers, got only four scoreless minutes.
?Buzzards are darkening the sky. Before Friday's game the L.A. players were mystified by their ineffectiveness in the stretch. They had lost two-point decisions to Milwaukee and Cleveland and fallen in overtime to Washington and Milwaukee. Boston also looked positively shell-shocked on Dec. 9 after losing 124-119 in the Garden to a Denver Nugget team that hadn't won there since April 6, 1979.
Well, here's what you're up against, Big Two: You're each a big, juicy piece of red meat, and the rest of the league hasn't eaten in years. There's a genuine feeling out there that both the Lakers and the Celtics are vulnerable. Piston assistant coach Dick Versace felt it as he watched Detroit's 128-105 rout of Boston on Dec. 4. "For the first time I really believed we were the better team, and I never believed that before," Versace said. Other teams are having similar thoughts.
When you have to play hard every night—well, almost every night—it takes something out of you. Still, Bird feels that even an '80 or 90 percent effort would get us past most teams." Is he psyching himself or kidding himself? Certainly the Celtics raised their level of play against the Lakers, and maybe they'll continue to do so now that the situation has almost reached the desperation point. And perhaps all the Lakers needed to resume their winning ways was to beat Boston and to get closer to home—they can leave their watches on Pacific time until they play in Utah the day after Christmas.
"There's no need to get all worked up over this game," said Thompson on Friday night. "We'll all be back here in June."