8.24.2010

Larry v. Magic: Game 14 (part 1)

1984 NBA Finals Game 7

Larry v. Magic: Game-by-Game Summary

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

Temperature at Garden will be Hot for Game 7

The heat, as they say, is on.

The temperature here is expected to remain at least in the 80s, still locking hot, stale air inside Boston Garden. There should be enough dregs of the merciless 95 degrees-plus heat of the last week to keep the crusty, aging building bubbling, defenselessly transformed into the world's largest crockpot.

Whoever thought the fabled parquet floor would ever be considered a skillet? Or that two groups of professional athletes would writhe on it, slashing at each other like so many Ginsu knives?

In any case, the Los Angeles Lakers will meet the Boston Celtics tonight in a decisive Game 7 of the NBA Championship Series (Channel 10, 9 p.m.). The Celtics have never lost a seventh game in the finals, the Lakers have never won one. The teams have played for the championship seven previous times, most recently in 1969, and the Celtics have won each time. And nine of the last 11 titles have been won on the road.

The Lakers, getting a heroic 30-point performance from captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a terrific 17-minute contribution from rookie Byron Scott, won 119-108 Sunday in Inglewood, Calif., evening their latest series at 3-3. Only four teams have ever come back from a 3-2 Championship Series deficit to win a title: the 1955 Syracuse Nationals, over Fort Wayne; the '62 Celtics, over LA; the '69 Celtics, over LA, and the '78 Washington Bullets, over Seattle.

They have run, shot, rebounded, passed and scuffled, and they will test history.

''There's a first time for everything,'' said Pat Riley, the Lakers' coach. ''We have a chance to do something that's never been done. We're going to go into the Garden, with all of those championship flags hanging there, with all that heat, and see which team is better.''

The Lakers' last game here - a loss Friday night - was debilitating. The Garden, which has no air-conditioning and very little circulation, was a steaming 97 degrees, forcing the Lakers to keep oxygen on the bench.

Both teams used cold towels, extra liquids and changes of uniform at intermission, and Boston star Larry Bird became slightly dizzy and light-headed in the fourth quarter.

But the single most affected player was the 37-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, who shot 7-for-25 and had difficulty breathing. He also has struggled with a series of migraine headaches, which have plagued him throughout his career and have, during this series, required chiropractic and intravenous treatment.

''I suggest that you go to a local steam bath, with all your clothes on, do 100 push-ups and then try to run back and forth for 48 minutes,'' Abdul-Jabbar said, describing his most recent visit to the Garden. ''But it was also the first time I had faced anything like that while I was playing for all the marbles. I would think, the second time, I'll at least be able to handle it better.''

This time, the Lakers have got to beat the Celtics, beat back the ghosts of Celtics past, and beat the heat.

''I've already talked it over with Jack (trainer Jack Curran) and Dr. Kerlan (team physician Dr. Robert Kerlan) ,'' said Riley, ''and so far we've agreed to come up with a program that will provide the players with more nutriments and liquids. One thing that will be different is, the situation won't be new to us. We've been through it once, and at least now there won't be the fear of the unknown.

''I wish we had time to sit around and build up some anger, to have a day or two to tell the world that we know we're out there by ourselves and that we have to stick together. But all we can really do is is go play the game. Sometimes that's best.''

Not that Riley isn't open to suggestions.

''Maybe there has to be some psychology involved,'' he said. ''Maybe we have to tell the guys to all have chocolate sundaes, or send each guy to his room with a note. A situation like this, you try anything that's in the best interests of your players.''

Dave Wohl, the assistant coach who played at Penn and later with the 76ers, reached back in his memory bank for a shred of expertise.

''Before my rookie year in the NBA, I played for the first time in the Baker League in Philly,'' Wohl said. ''My first game was somewhere near 21st and Chew, a little school building with a tiny gym that had two windows. It was a sweltering day, and they had packed as many fans into the place as they could because they were expecting Earl Monroe to make an appearance. I'll never forget the feeling of being in a sweatbox, walking outside afterward and having it feel almost arctic by comparison.''

Dennis Johnson, the Celtics' guard, says the heat might be on, but it might also have nothing to do with the temperature, inside or outside.

''The point is, emotionally it's going to be hot as hell for both teams,'' he said. ''That's all that counts. We've all been through it before. Now we'll just do it one more time.''

The Lakers have a couple of other significant issues to face. First, Magic Johnson is having recurring tendinitis problems in one knee, and backup forward-center Bob McAdoo is questionable with a strained Achilles' tendon.

''We have to go to Boston and win, that's all that matters,'' said Johnson. ''I don't care if it's so hot that nobody can breathe, we still have to win.

''We had to win Sunday, too, and Kareem just lifted everybody up. He had been sick all night, but he talked to us before the game, then went out and scored 30 points. Some people wait for the leader to say something, then say 'Follow the leader.' That's what happened.''

''The last game of the season,'' said the Lakers' Michael Cooper, ''could be in Alaska, or, for that matter, anyplace else. Any time, any place.''

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