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There will be no rematch of the Boston Celtics vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2023 NBA Finals. The Denver Nuggets completed the sweep of the Lakers on Monday to earn a berth in the championship round. The Miami Heat are on the verge of doing the same to the Celtics, leading the series 3-0 heading into Tuesday’s Game 4.

Former Lakers guard Magic Johnson, who squared off against the Celtics in the Finals three times in the 1980s, made a comment about his former rivals after Sunday’s 128-102 loss to the Heat. He was right on the money.

Magic Johnson is quite familiar with the Boston Celtics

Cedric Maxwell of the Boston Celtics defends Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA game circa 1980 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

Johnson and the Lakers played a major part in taking the NBA to another level in the 1980s. Fresh off his epic 1979 NCAA title game against Larry Bird, Johnson headed to LA to begin his NBA career, while Bird found a home in Boston. The two carried their personal rivalry to the next level and rejuvenated the Celtics/Lakers rivalry that had taken place in the 1960s.

Johnson and Bird helped turn the NBA into a global game. Television ratings soared as the two stars took over the league. Celtics vs. Lakers and Bird vs. Johnson were must-see basketball.

They met in the NBA Finals for the first time in 1984. The Lakers dominated play through the first four games of the series but went back to Boston for Game 5 tied at two games apiece. Boston outlasted LA in seven games, claiming its second title of the decade.

The Celtics aimed for a repeat as the teams squared off again in the NBA Finals the following year. Boston jumped out to a strong start in the series, earning a 148-114 in the series opener, a game known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Despite the blowout win, the Celtics saw the Lakers steal homecourt advantage from them in Game 2 with a 109-102 win.

The Lakers won three of the next four games and became the first visiting team to celebrate a championship on Boston’s home court (the Warriors did it last year). The teams met again in 1987, and the Lakers won again in six games.

Johnson right on the money 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 favorite to win the 2023 NBA title. Instead, the eighth-seeded Heat are one win away from posting a shocking sweep of the Celtics.

Down 2-0 after blowing two 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 dropped an embarrassing 128-102 decision.

“In my 44 years of being associated with the NBA, I never thought I’d see a Boston Celtics team, a franchise with 17 Championships, quit,” Johnson tweeted after Game 3. “I know Celtics fans all over the world must be disgusted and devastated. The Miami Heat blew them out 128-102 in Game 3.”

Magic is 100 percent correct. The Celtics quit. They showed zero heart and no fire.

Celtics fans will probably fire back at Johnson after his Lakers were swept by the Nuggets, but that’s two completely different situations. Nobody expected the seventh-seeded Lakers to advance to the conference finals. They also faced the top-seeded Nuggets. Boston was a significant 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 the only one blasting Boston for quitting. Charles Barkley, during TNT’s postgame interview with Miami’s Gabe Vincent, also took a shot at Boston. Vincent, who scored 29 points to outscore Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined, said Boston was a well-coached team and won’t lay down in the series.

“Clearly, you didn’t watch the game tonight,” Barkley said. “Well-coached and don’t lay down? Go look at the tape again.”


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