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8.20.2010

Larry v. Magic: Game 12 (part 1)

1984 NBA Finals Game 5

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Media Coverage
Lakers Expect It Hot at Da Gahden for Game 5

There is a widely accepted theory in the National Basketball Association that the "home-court advantage" is overrated. The 76ers' Billy Cunningham, for instance, discounts any advantage, as does Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley. Both of them, however, concede that there are two elements in the league that can indeed make the home court an advantage.

The first arises when a playoff series is in its late stages, as is the case in the NBA championship series between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are are locked up at 2-2 in their best-of-seven series. And the second arises when any game - any game at all - is played in the Boston Garden.

Needless to say, both those factors will be present tonight for Game 5 (Channel 10, 9 p.m.). "It will be a zoo," Boston forward Cedric Maxwell said shortly before boarding the Celtics' team flight home from Los Angeles, where on Wednesday night the Celts took back the home-court advantage with a 129-125 overtime victory in front of a sellout Forum crowd.

"Really it will be a zoo," Maxwell continued. "I'm sure the ticket prices will go up tenfold. I'm just looking forward to the game." He probably is looking forward to tonight's game with the same kind of delight with which the lions used to await another pack of Christians at the Colosseum.

The Boston Garden, which seems almost as old as the Colosseum, is the place where, years ago, fans used to throw eggs on opposing players' heads as they grouped in timeout huddles. It has no air conditioning, so when it's hot outside, as it has been here for several days, the Garden bakes. That effect is helped along by the fact that the aging structure is made of brick and therefore retains heat, and also because it is literally upstairs from the North End's biggest railroad station, collecting the heat that rises from below.

And that's not even counting the problems caused by the tiny, crowded dressing rooms the opposing players are forced to use, or the dozens of chips and bumps and dead spots that dot the playing surface. And when it's hot, and loud, and steaming, it becomes the NBA's only legitimate cauldron, comparable to no other arena in the
league.

Now that the Celtics have proved they can come from behind and win in L.A.'s relaxed Forum, they could make that cauldron even more uncomfortable for the Lakers. On Wednesday night, the Celtics banged and clawed and fought their way back from a 14-point, first-half deficit to fashion a 113-113 tie at the end of regulation and an eventual victory in overtime.

Even though they played on a foreign court, the Celtics used their muscle on the Lakers. Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis on a fast-break drive to the hoop in the first half. Larry Bird faced off with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the second. And
Celtics bodies piled on Lakers bodies during loose-ball scrambles. If a physical style was their game plan on the Lakers' home court, one can only wonder how the Celtics will play tonight's game, in front of 14,890 slightly crazed patrons.

"It seemed as soon as the fights began (in Game 4), the Celtics became more aggressive, and we might have lost some of our concentration," Lakers reserve center Swen Nater said. "Maybe that's their style of game, and I'm sure we will see more of that in Boston. There's no doubt it will be a war there." James Worthy, whose stunning 14-for-17, 30-point performance Wednesday was overshadowed by another misfired pass late in the game, agreed that the Lakers could expect another bruising game.

"Boston's whole strategy is to throw us off our game by turning it into a rumble-tumble contest," Worthy said. "At times, that's exactly what they did, and it affected us. Any time you have to go to Boston, it's going to be a tough game."
But, perhaps, even tougher now. For the Lakers stole the home-court advantage by whipping Boston in Game 1, only to give it back Wednesday night. It is now a
best-of-three series, and two of the three possible games will be in Boston Garden.

Where it will be hot.

Where it will be loud.

And where, beneath 14 NBA championship banners and on top of a parquet floor loaded with danger spots, the Lakers will struggle to beat the Celtics. The home court?
Suddenly, the "advantage" seems very real, indeed.

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