EVERYONE remembers the play Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis during game 4 of the 1984 Finals. Less well remembered, except by the players involved, was the play on which the Lakers attempted to exact revenge later in the series.
James Worthy, who had missed an important free throw at the end of game 4, was none too pleased when Cedric Maxwell gave him the choke sign. Combined with the McHale clothesline, Worthy decided it was time for a little payback.
After a steal by Maxwell, Cornbread was heading in for an uncontested layup when Worthy Worthy came out of nowhere and shoved Max from behind, driving him into the basket support. Maxwell at first thought he broke his neck. Other Celtics restrained Max from chasing Worthy.
"That's their style," Worthy said. "They don't give you any respect. They abuse you physically and mentally . . . It's not a way I like to play basketball. But if they're going to do these things to you, you're going to have to do the same things to them or they'll eat your lunch on you."
"I don't think what he did to Max was anything near what McHale did to Kurt," said Riley, who had called the Celtics "thugs," and McHale's foul the "cheapest shot" he'd ever seen. "Worthy didn't grab him around the neck and throw him to the floor."
"Worthy's play was worse than what Kevin did," answered Celtics president and general manager Red Auerbach. "At least their guy (Rambis) saw our guy coming. Max couldn't see anything coming."