Lewis fills Bird's shoes, and basket, too, to defeat Indiana

April 24, 1992|By Larry Tye | Larry Tye,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- He was the go-to guy when the Boston Celtics needed the big basket. Or craved a key steal. Or simply weren't sure what to do in a game they never could seem to put out of reach.

No, not Larry Bird. He may have patented the role, but he had to watch this one from the sidelines, in street clothes.

The franchise player last night, as he has been more and more in this strange and spectacular season, was Reggie Lewis.

Consider Reggie in the final 10 minutes, when last night's 124-113 Boston win over the Indiana Pacers was very much up for grabs.

He drives for a layup with 9:33 left to tie the score. Twenty-four seconds later he feeds Kevin McHale for a layup, and another tie score.

As the clock winds down, Lewis winds up, hitting a crucial 5-foot hook shot, off balance, with just 3:44 left, and drawing a foul. The score: Celtics 110, Indiana Pacers 106. From then on, the Celtics are in control.

But the Baltimore Dunbar High School product continues pressing at both ends, deflecting a Pacers inbound pass and drawing another foul, then connecting on both free throws.

"Reggie has been carrying the load offensively," said Celtics coach Chris Ford.

The game stats back him up: 36 points, high for either team.

Impressive, yes. Surprising? Not for a guy who led the team this season with 20.8 points.

Even more impressive is the way he scores. On off-balance shots. And head-down, driving layups. At key points. When no one else seems to want the ball.

Remind you of anyone?

Equally impressive last night was the defense of the former Baltimore Dunbar stand out: He managed four steals, high for the Celtics, along with three defensive rebounds. While Reggie Miller scored 29 points against him, Miller seemed to be contained at the key moments.

Again, that performance shouldn't be surprising. After all, Lewis FTC led the Celtics in steals during the regular season with 125. And he was fourth in rebounds.

Numbers like that help explain why his teammates, and fans, seem to take him for granted these days. It's what they expect of the franchise player. The All-Star. The go-to guy.

"Reggie Lewis has carried us the whole season," said Celtics forward Kevin Gamble. "He makes the big shot when we need it and is at both ends of the floor."

Pacers coach Bob Hill is impressed. "Reggie Lewis, especially, hurt us, both defensively and offensively."

Lewis, as always, was low-key about his performance: "We have to do it together as a team. Everybody has got to come in and play their role. We know we can't do it with one or two guys."

Is there more pressure on him with Bird and Dee Brown out?

"It's not difficult at all. I've been doing that pretty much all season long," he said.

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