Good Thing Red Kept McHale in Boston

Celtics 116, Knicks 102
Game 2
1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics Lead Series 2-0

Now we know why the Knicks wanted Kevin McHale so badly last June.

En route to a 2-0 series lead, the Celtics received predictably outstanding performances from Larry Bird and Robert Parish, while Dennis Johnson has played like the man who won the playoff MVP in 1979, and Cedric Maxwell has fused himself to Bernard King.

But McHale has been the X-factor. In two playoff games against New York, he has scored 49 points, shot 82 percent (23-28), snatched 12 rebounds, blocked 6 shots and helped Maxwell hold King 23 points below his first-round playoff average.

The Knicks have no answer for McHale. Both King and Truck Robinson are three inches shorter than Boston's relief ace, while Louis Orr is Hubie Brown's most hideous option. Orr is 6 foot 9, but weighs about 180 pounds and is nicknamed "Gandhi." Having Orr guard McHale is like having Barney Fife in charge of Folsom Prison.

Hubie can play two centers, and put Marvin Webster on McHale, but Webster is not quick enough to stay with Boston's sixth man. Obviously, Eric Fernsten isn't the answer. The Big E hasn't been off the pine yet.

"A lot of guys shoot over our forwards," said Brown. "The difference is, McHale makes the shots."

In six regular-season games against New York, McHale averaged 22.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 64 percent (27-42).

"Some teams do things which enable you to get in a better position to score," he says. "Conversely, a team such as Washington double teams you and bumps you. When I'm playing the Knicks, I feel comfortable against the guys out there.

"The key is to give yourself the opportunity to get high percentage shots."

Unless GM Dave DeBusschere comes out of retirement before tonight's third game (8, Ch. 4), the Knicks are likely to find themselves playing catchup again.

DeBusschere is the man who tried to bag McHale last spring. The Knicks made a big play for Boston's supersub and felt slightly used when McHale signed a four-year, $4 million pact with the Celtics.

"I'm not bitter," says DeBusschere. "I always thought very highly of Kevin and I still do. I'm not one to point fingers and say someone was right or wrong. We were sincere in our efforts to sign him, but it just didn't work out."

McHale refuses to dwell on the last spring's signing circus. "It's so far away, I can't remember," he says. "For a while I didn't know what was going on with the Celtics, but I didn't want to leave Boston. I never did. I'm the happiest guy in the world playing for the Boston Celtics."


Brown was in rare form after Wednesday's 116-102 loss. Complaining about the officials' treatment of Bernard King, New York's coach said, "I don't think I had 3-D glasses on and I thought it was about time Bernard got some calls. I would like them to be totally objective and look at both ends. We're still waiting to see who fouled Bird on that goaltending call." King has taken only eight free throws in two games. He also went 20 minutes without a basket Wednesday . . . This from Hubie-the-realist: "We have to play better and hope they don't play as well as they have in these first two games." From Truck Robinson: "The way we're playing, we're not going to win." The Knicks lost 10 of their last 16 regular-season games and have lost 10 consecutive Eastern Conference semifinal playoff games . . . Ray Williams attended his sister's funeral yesterday and is expected back for tonight's game. The Knicks anticipate a full house (19,591) at Madison Square Garden . . . If the Celtics win four straight, they might have to wait as long as nine days before playing their first game of the Eastern Conference finals against Milwaukee or New Jersey . . . At the conclusion of yesterday's Celtic practice, the team sang happy birthday to aerobic instructor Louise Boland, as a surprise cake and red roses were wheeled on to the floor.

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