Kurt Rambis is the classic rags-to-riches story, a raw-boned, bespectacled 6-8 forward who couldn't latch on with the Knicks, went to play in Greece for a year and then resurfaced as a starting power forward with the world champion Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.
But after three years, Rambis still is one of the most anonymous figures on Hollywood's Team.
Rambis looked as if he was about to remain a top secret throughout this Championship Series, too, after going scoreless during the Lakers' overtime loss to Boston in Game 2. But Rambis opened some eyes yesterday when he scored a career playoff high 17 points as the Lakers dominated the Celtics, 137-104, to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
Rambis shot 7-for-7 and added five rebounds to help the Lakers more than offset the play of Boston's two-headed monster, Cedric Maxwell and Kevin McHale, and give the Lakers a big plus at the power forward position.
''Actually,'' he said, ''it wasn't me. It was Magic. I just kept filling the lanes and he delivered the ball. It's easy when you're playing with a ballplayer like that.''
Johnson has the rare ability to make all his teammates look better, particularly when the Lakers get out and run. But Rambis contributed too, boxing out effectively to help the Lakers overwhelm Boston on the boards, 63-44.
''That's the key to our success,'' Rambis said. ''You know, they've been very good on the offensive boards and that's caused us some problems. But when we had that run in the third quarter, we were limiting their second shots. It was just a commitment on everybody's part to hit the boards.
''When we control the boards, that initiates the fastbreak.''
The Lakers' fastbreak normally is a three-man proposition, with Johnson in the middle and two wings filling the lanes. Rambis is usually the trailer on the play.
''Anytime you get your big men out and running, it definitely helps the break,'' Rambis said.
Rambis is glad to be off and running. He started this season on a bad foot - literally. Rambis spent the first 32 games on the injured list because of a sore left foot and was not activated until Jan. 7.
Rambis joined the starting lineup Feb. 18 and the Lakers were 21-10 after that. Rambis averaged four points and 6.7 rebounds as a starter but his numbers were deceptively low because his production has increased steadily.
Rambis averaged 7.9 rebounds and shot 39-for-60 in the last 20 games of the regular season. He led the team in rebounding in seven of last 12 games.
After Rambis's performance in yesterday's nationally televised rout, he looks as if he is back on track again. And the Lakers look like a powerful freight train.
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