BOSTON -- Disappointed at losing Game 4 of the NBA finals, the Boston Celtics are demoralized by how it happened.
The NBA's defending champions led by 16 points in the third quarter and 8 points with 3:30 remaining before Los Angeles scored 12 of the final 15 points to win the game at Boston Garden.
'We've gotten beat here before, but the way we let that one go really hurts,' said Boston forward Larry Bird before practice Wednesday. 'Our mental toughness is just not what it used to be.'
'If we lose this series, that's the game we'll always remember,' said Danny Ainge of the 107-106 defeat.
And history says the series is over -- no team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit. The Lakers can clinch the title in Thursday night's Game 5.
Bird thought wistfully of how the Celtics, the underdogs in every game, had been routed in the first two contests then narrowly missed evening the series.
'I really liked our chances (for the series) last night. If we could have just got that one, it would have been a different series.
'I wanted to win all three at home and go out there for two games because I know we could win one. But winning two ...' he stopped and shook his head.
The Celtics led 103-95 but committed turnovers on their next three possessions and Los Angeles capitalized with a 9-point streak. Dennis Johnson said Boston's self-destruction was hard to accept.
'It takes the night and most of the next day to realize what you did to yourself. Now we have to win three straight, which is hard, and against the Lakers it's probably three or four times harder.'
The Celtics played more physically in Game 4, which included one melee after Johnson's hard foul on James Worthy as the Lakers forward was driving for a layup.
'The game was a little pro wrestling, a little pro boxing,' said Michael Cooper. 'But that's the type of game the Celtics have to have to win. They've got the big bodies. What saved us is that Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and James came in in such great physical shape.'
Bird said that if the series was tied, the inherent pressure would have altered the games.
'If we could have walked out of here with a win, you would have seen a lot of different people taking different shots. Things change when it gets tied up and you're playing on the road.
'You would have seen Magic (Johnson) take a lot more big shots and seen me take a lot more shots. It says a lot about our teams and the way we lead them,' he explained.
Bird's 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining in Game 4 gave Boston its last lead. Magic Johnson's running hook from 10 feet was the game-winner, Bird's jumper from the left corner bouncing off the rim as time expired.
Bird said it should be expected that the final minutes would have become a duel of the two stars.
'We've been there so many times -- not that other guys haven't - but our teams look for us to take those kinds of shots.
'I know when it gets down to the end of the game, I'm going to get the ball in those situations and hope I can make some of them. Last night it was Magic's turn -- he made the big shot and I missed.'