The 2023 NBA Finals will not feature a return game between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Denver Nuggets completed Monday’s win over the Lakers to secure a spot in the championship round. The Miami Heat are poised to do the same with the Celtics, leading the series 3-0 ahead of Game 4 on Tuesday.
Former Lakers guard Magic Johnson, who faced the Celtics in the Finals three times in the 1980s, offered his thoughts on his former rivals after Sunday’s 128-102 loss to the Heat. He had just the thing.
Magic Johnson is very familiar with the Boston Celtics
Johnson and the Lakers were instrumental in taking the NBA to new heights in the 1980s. After his epic 1979 NCAA title game against Larry Bird, Johnson traveled to LA to begin his NBA career while Bird made a home in Boston. The two took their personal rivalry to the next level, renewing the Celtics–Lakers rivalry that had taken place in the 1960s.
Johnson and Bird helped make the NBA a global game. TV ratings skyrocketed as the two stars took over the league. Celtics vs. Lakers and Bird vs. Johnson were must-see basketball games.
They first met in the 1984 NBA Finals. The Lakers dominated the game in the first four games of the series but returned to Boston for Game 5, each tied by two games. Boston bested LA in seven games to claim their second title of the decade.
The Celtics sought a repeat when the teams met again the following year in the NBA Finals. Boston got off to a strong start to the series, posting a 148-114 record in the series’ opening game, a game known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Despite the overwhelming win, the Celtics saw the Lakers give them home field advantage in Game 2 with a 109-102 win.
The Lakers won three of their next four games and became the first visiting team to celebrate a championship on Boston’s home field (the Warriors did it last year). The teams met again in 1987 and the Lakers again won in six games.
Johnson hit the spot with his assessment of the current Celtics
The Boston Celtics were the big favorites to defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were also the favorite to win the 2023 NBA title. Instead, the No. eight-seeded Heat are one win away from a shocking win over the Celtics.
Trailing 2-0 after squandering two double-digit leads at home in the first two games of the series, the Celtics had a chance to make their mark in Game 3 in Miami. Instead, they showed no fight and dropped an embarrassing decision of 128-102.
“In my 44 years associated with the NBA, I never imagined that a Boston Celtics team, a 17-championship franchise, would retire.” Johnson tweeted after Game 3. “I know Celtics fans around the world must be disgusted and devastated. The Miami Heat beat them 128-102 in Game 3.”
Magic is 100 percent correct. The Celtics give up. They showed no heart and no fire.
Celtics fans will likely fire back at Johnson after his Lakers were defeated by the Nuggets, but those are two completely different situations. No one expected the seventh-seeded Lakers to reach the conference finals. They also met the top seeded nuggets. Boston was a clear favorite over the eighth-seeded Heat. The door was wide open for the second-seeded Celtics to advance to the finals for the second year in a row.
Johnson wasn’t the only one to criticize Boston for leaving. Charles Barkley also shot Boston during TNT’s post-game interview with Gabe Vincent of Miami. Vincent, who scored 29 points, beating Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined, said Boston are a well-trained team and will not back down in the series.
“Obviously you didn’t see the game tonight,” Barkley said. “Exercised well and not lying down? Watch the tape again.
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