8.24.2010

Larry v. Magic: Game 12 (Part 9)

1984 NBA Finals Game 5

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Media Coverage

AT THE BOILING POINT


Jimmy Rodgers, the assistant coach, walked into the Celtics locker room and muttered the universal "whew" as he hit the heat. His sports coat already was off, carried over a shoulder, two hours before the game began.

"Nice long-sleeved shirt," a sportswriter said last night.

"Well, of course I wore the long-sleeved shirt," Jimmy Rodgers said. "It's basketball season, isn't it?"

Basketball season. Sure.

Remember the date, June 8, 1984. The latest date a basketball game ever has been played in the Boston Garden. The hottest the place ever has been for basketball.

"There have been a couple of rock and roll concerts," a Garden secuirty guard said. "The people pakced in, close to the stage . . . the smell of sweat. I don't know how they ever stood it. Everybody close to the stage.

"This is the hottest for any sports event I can remember."

How . . . hot . . . was it? Harvey Leonard, the Channel 7 meteorologist did his segment of the 6 o'clock news live from the Garden floor, the first time he ever had done his forecast "live" from inside a building other than Channel 7.

He brought along a thermometer that showed the temperature at 86, but that was before the 15,000 people and their accompanying body heat had arrived. The same thermometer, taken to the Celtics' locker room, gave a reading of 95 degrees. The CBS network thermometer read 97 degrees at game time. Two fans placed next to two open windows were the only source of relief.

"It's going to be something when all of those people get here," Harvey Leonard predicted. "The players are going to need an awful lot of fluids. If this was a dry heat, at least the sweat could evaporate. With the high humidity . . . "

The problem for the Celtics and the Lakers was an old-time, mid-summer Bermuda high - an old-time, midsummer heat wave - compounded with the new- time, all-time television greed. With the NBA and CBS stringing out the series to this late date, with the 9 p.m. starting time and the dizzying schedule, all the pieces were put together for last night's steamy situation for the fifth game of these best-of-seven playoff finals.

"At least there's one good thing," forward Cedric Maxwell said. "The starting time helps here. If this were one of those Sunday afternoon games, the heat would be unbelievable."

There weren't many precautions the players could make. What could they do? Drink their fluids. Maybe cut down on their warmups. ("What'll we need, about five minutes to get loose and sweaty?" guard Danny Ainge asked.) Prepare to go into the sauna.

"You just gotta conserve," guard Dennis Johnson said. "That's all."

"There are about three or four players I'm going to have to watch extra close," Lakers trainer Jack Curran said. "Guys I know who have trouble with the heat. Just watch 'em. That's all."

The Lakers were scurrying to add oxygen to their bench. Oxygen. More towels. More water. Anything. Their locker room was as hot as the Celtics room. Without the two fans, but with the two windows.

"Geez, Red Auerbach didn't even weld the windows shut," a sportswriter said to Lakers assistant coach Dave Wohl.

"The welders must have Friday off in Boston," Wohl said. "Or maybe Red's getting old and doesn't want to win as bad any more. He hasn't even stuffed up the air ducts."

For most of the players, the heat promised to be as bad as anything they had experienced. They could only remember trips to Phoenix that might have been as hot.

"It was 112 in one game I played there," Dennis Johnson said.

"Yeh, but that was dry heat," someone said. "This is wet heat."

"I always have said that if it's 112, it's 112," Dennis Johnson said.

"The worst game I ever was associated with was a 112-degree game in Dallas," alternate referee Earl Strom said. "It was in the old ABA at Moody Coliseum, a place that's sort of built into the ground.

"Players had to be taken out during that game because of the heat. The other referee had to be taken out. I was lucky - he knocked his hand on a wooden chair - I made it."

Would the heat bother a slimmer, faster running team like the Lakers? Or would it bother a slower, heavier team like the Celtics? It clearly would be a problem for both, but one would be able to complain more than the other.

The loser.

"That's the thing," an early-arriving season-ticket holder said. "Whichever team loses, it has an excuse. Doesn't it?

"Why do they play these games so late in the year? It changes everything. It's not the same game as the regular season. The loser always will have an excuse."

How . . . hot . . . was . . . it? The loser would be the one to say. That was the one sure early bet of the long, Bermuda-high night.

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