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Looking back at the Lakers' Memorial Day performances

May 30, 2011 |  2:17 pm

61877727 It's surely a weird feeling for Laker fans today, firing up their grills, hitting the beach and honoring the veterans that make our country safe.

That's because for the first time in three years, the Lakers aren't still playing basketball and competing for an NBA championship. Surely, Laker fans will still have plenty to talk about, such as the hiring of Mike Brown, who will have an introductory press conference Tuesday at 3 p.m. at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. But there won't be the prospect of being able to watch a Laker playoff game on television like in years past.

It's always a good thing for Laker fans if their team is still playing through Memorial Day, but a look back at some of the Lakers' performances on that holiday doesn't always spark a lot of good memories. Below the jump are a look at the Lakers' 2-2 record in Memorial Day playoff games. 

May 27, 1985: Lakers' 148-114 Game 1 loss to Boston Celtics in NBA Finals

 

Famously dubbed the "Memorial Day Massacre," the Lakers surprisingly offered little sign that they were ready to rectify their seven-game loss to Boston in the 1984 NBA Finals. Everything worked out in the end for the Lakers, who beat the Celtics in six games in the 1985 NBA Finals, but very few would see that coming after witnessing the Lakers' Game 1 effort. 

"It was a nightmare," Magic Johnson told The Times' Thomas Bonk.

Every available statistic appropriately summed up the huge disparity. The Lakers trailed by 30 points at halftime, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had as many personal fouls (three) as rebounds and were exposed in every defensive category imaginable. The Celtics shot a playoff record 61% from the field, Scott Wedman hit a playoff record for field accuracy by hitting all 11 of his shot attempts and the Lakers had no answer for Boston's frontline in Larry Bird (19 points, nine assists), Kevin McHale (26 points, nine rebounds) and Robert Parrish (18 points, eight rebounds).

There was still plenty of fight in the technical sense of the word. In the third quarter, Byron Scott shoved a forearm into Danny Ainge's back, Ainge threw the ball back at Scott's backside and, moments later, McHale struck an elbow into the back of Scott's head. But there was hardly any fight in the Lakers' overall effort. 

"We've been buried before," Lakers Coach Pat Riley said. "But we've never had dirt thrown in our faces."

May 25, 1987: Lakers' 133-102 Game 4 win over Seattle Supersonics in Western Conference Finals

The Lakers may have swept the Seattle Supersonics and proved their experience could match Seattle's lack of it. But the Lakers needed every ounce of their talent to take the first three games, with all of them decided by fewer than single digits. But with the Lakers smelling blood with a possible four-game sweep in Game 4, the Lakers didn't hold anything back.

The Lakers' 133-102 Game 4 win over Seattle in the 1987 Western Conference Finals featured the team's star players in Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and James Worthy sitting on the bench for most of the fourth period with a lead pretty much secured. The Lakers led by as many as 32 points, forced Seattle into committing 21 turnovers and shooting only 36% from the field and rectified their 1986 Western Conference Finals loss to Houston. 

''What we experienced last year was a serious disappointment,'' said Abdul-Jabbar to reporters after scoring 13 points in 25 minutes. ''Whatever happened this year, we weren't going to let it be like last year, when we beat ourselves.''

May 31, 2004: Lakers' 96-90 Game 6 win over Minnesota Timberwolves in Western Conference Finals.

He only had 11 points in the entire series beforehand, but Kareem Rush proved to be the pleasant surprise in securing the Lakers' four NBA Finals appearance in five seasons.

While there were surely multiple factors in the Lakers advancing, such as Shaquille O'Neal (25 points), Kobe Bryant (20) and absence of Minnesota guard Sam Cassell, Rush was the one who made the significant push. He made six three-pointers, including one that gave the Lakers a 10-point lead with 3:22 remaining that sent the Staples Center crowd into a frenzy.

"He's one of the best shooters on the team," O'Neal told reporters. "I'm the guy that's always on him, and he responded. I didn't have to get on him too much (tonight)."

May, 25 2009: Lakers' 120-101 Game 4 loss to Denver Nuggets in Western Conference Finals

The Lakers showed for most of the 2009 NBA playoffs that their focus was as short-lived as the cookie-cutter action summer blockbuster. After taking Derek Fisher's "This is your moment" speech in Game 3 to hear with a clutch 103-97 win over Denver, the Lakers apparently forgot the next game about seizing the moment. In the Lakers' 120-101 Game 4 loss to Denver, the Nuggets dominated on the glass (58-40), in the paint (52 points to 34), in fastbreak points (15-5) and bench production (42-24). But it also appeared the Lakers were simply tired, realizing needlessly extending the seven-game Western Conference semifinals to Houston eventually caught up to them in fatigue.

"If we were tired, it was noticeable tonight because their energy was better," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson told reporters regarding the Nuggets. "That's perhaps the only thing I could say. But that's not a very good excuse."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: The Lakers have gone 2-2 in playoff games on Memorial Day. Credit: Los Angeles Times.


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