1983-84 Boston Celtics
Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay went to Lewiston, Maine, for their heavyweight championship rematch in 1965. The Celtics and 76ers have selected a comparably remote outpost for their second main event in four days. The NBA has fined Red Auerbach, Larry Bird, Gerald Henderson and Philly's Mark Iavaroni for the free-for-all at the Garden that resulted in three fights, three ejections, five technical fouls and divine intervention from a cigar-chomping Red.
Both teams would like you to believe that there'll be no ugly scenes when they resume battle at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga tonight. "I don't think there'll be any problems," says Celtic guard Henderson, who was tossed after punching Philadelphia rookie Sedale Threatt Sunday. "I'm sure they'll come out strong and play hard, but I don't think there'll be any fighting. It's gonna be a tough game and I'm sure they'll take it more serious this time (Boston won Sunday's game, 99-86)."
"Things probably won't be as hostile, because we'll be on a neutral court," says Cedric Maxwell, who provoked Sunday's first incident when he tossed the basketball at Moses Malone. "Moses is probably still mad at me, but it's no big deal for him and me to be elbowing each other." "I can't afford to play any differently, because that would show them that their tactics had accomplished something," says Philadelphia forward Iavaroni, who was ejected for fighting with Bird. "This isn't exactly new, you know. Bird elbowed me in the face the first time we played there last season."
Bird, who apparently was embarrassed to be tossed after playing only four minutes of hisfirst home game since signing a multimillion dollar contract, has refused to comment on Sunday's fracus. 76er coach Billy Cunningham, who's sport coat was shredded in Sunday's second melee, says he won't give his team any special instructions before tonight's game. "You can't be showing you're afraid of them," says Cunningham. "If you're afraid of them you might as well pack your bags and go home. You have to play the game and you have to play hard. There are only a couple of dirty things that you can do in the game of basketball . . . "
76er leader Julius Erving says, "I really haven't thought any more about it. I would think this will be physical and aggressive. I think people think before they throw punches - unless you get hit first, of course." Celtic team physician Thomas Silva and coach K.C. Jones hope the game is free of fights. "It's a scary thing when big men with no padding start swinging fists," said Silva. "I doubt we'll have any more of what you saw the other night," said Jones.