There will be no Boston Celtics rematch against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2023 NBA Finals. The Denver Nuggets completed a sweep of the Lakers on Monday to earn a spot in the championship round. The Miami Heat are set to do the same with the Celtics, leading the series 3-0 heading into Game 4 on Tuesday.
Former Lakers guard Magic Johnson, who faced the Celtics in the Finals three times in the 1980s, commented on his former rivals after Sunday’s 128-102 loss to the Heat. He was right about the money.
Magic Johnson knows the Boston Celtics well
Johnson and the Lakers played a major role in taking the NBA to another level in the 1980s. Fresh off of his epic 1979 NCAA title game against Larry Bird, Johnson traveled to Los Angeles to begin his NBA career, while Bird found a home in Boston. The two took their personal rivalry to the next level and rejuvenated the Celtics/Lakers rivalry that had taken place in the 1960s.
Johnson and Bird helped make the NBA a global game. Television ratings skyrocketed when the two stars took over the league. Celtics vs. Lakers and Bird vs. Johnson were must-watch basketball games.
They first met in the NBA Finals in 1984. The Lakers dominated play in the first four games of the series, but returned to Boston for Game 5 tied at two games apiece. Boston outlasted LA in seven games, winning its second title of the decade.
The Celtics were aiming for a repeat as the teams met again in the NBA Finals the following year. Boston got off to a good start in the series, winning a 148-114 in Game 1 of the series, a game known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Despite the blowout win, the Celtics saw the Lakers rob them of home court advantage in Game 2 with a 109-102 victory.
The Lakers won three of the next four games and became the first visiting team to celebrate a championship on home soil in Boston (the Warriors did so last year). The teams met again in 1987 and the Lakers again won in six games.
Johnson is correct with his assessment of the current Celtics
The Boston Celtics were heavy favorites to beat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were also the favorites to win the 2023 NBA title. Instead, the eighth-seeded Heat are one win away from posting a shocking sweep of the Celtics.
Trailing 2-0 after blowing double-digit leads at home in the first two games of the series, the Celtics had a chance to make a statement in Game 3 in Miami. Instead, they showed no fight and gave up an embarrassing 128-102 decision.
“In my 44 years of association with the NBA, I never thought I would see a Boston Celtics team, a franchise with 17 championships, resign,” Johnson tweeted after Game 3. “I know Celtics fans around the world must be disgusted and devastated. The Miami Heat knocked them out 128-102 in Game 3.”
The magic is 100% correct. The Celtics gave up. They showed zero hearts and no fire.
Celtics fans will likely fire back at Johnson after his Lakers were swept by the Nuggets, but those are two completely different situations. No one expected the seventh-seeded Lakers to advance to the Conference Finals. They also faced the top-seeded Nuggets. Boston was a strong favorite over the eighth-seeded Heat. The door was wide open for the second-seeded Celtics to make their second straight trip to the Finals.
Johnson was far from alone in criticizing Boston for quitting. Charles Barkley, during TNT’s post-match interview with Miami’s Gabe Vincent, also took a shot at Boston. Vincent, who scored 29 points to beat Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined, said Boston is a well-drilled team and won’t fold in the series.
“Obviously you didn’t watch the game tonight,” Barkley said. “Well trained and don’t go to bed?” Go see the band again.
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