It's all in the Packaging
It'll be packaged and sold like diet cola, all-beef patties and home computers.
The choice is yours. Bird or Magic? You are either a Bird Man or a Magic Man. Attach yourself to an image and live by it. Which player suits your particular tax bracket, lifestyle and political persuasion?
However, if you cut through the hype and hysteria, it's obvious that this Celtics-Lakers championship duel (which starts today at 1 p.m. in the Garden, Ch. 7, tickets marked Game J) features much more than the first playoff pairing of Larry Joe Bird and Earvin Johnson Jr.
Start with a little history. The Celtics are appearing in their 16th final. They are 14-1, including 13 straight since the St. Louis Hawks bounced them in 1958. This will be the 19th NBA final for the Lakers, who have split time between Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
Boston played the Lakers in seven championship bouts between 1959 and '69 and won every time. When this series is over, the Celtics and Lakers will have won a stunning 60 percent (23 of 38) of all NBA titles.
As usual, Bird and Magic won't see much of each other. Dennis Johnson will guard Magic, and Michael Cooper will spend most of his time on Bird. Meanwhile, Kevin McHale and James Worthy will terrorize each other off the bench, and the pivotal matchup could be Robert Parish vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Let's not forget K.C. Jones vs. Pat Riley, Atlantic vs. Pacific, corn flakes vs. granola or Alan Cranston vs. Ted Kennedy.
"You want to play against the best, and this is nothing less than that," says Magic. "It's the best against the best, and it's going to be great."
Boston's enthusiasm-eqivalent of Magic, M.L. Carr, says, "I knew it was going to be us and LA. I'm ready for this. It's center stage. Get the convertible out, put the top down and don't be coming here with any polos and Pierre Cardins. Make sure you don't mind gettin' wet, 'cause the Garden's gonna be a sweatbox."
Running and rebounding top everyanalytical discussion of the dream series.
The Celtics were stifled by plowhorse teams from Washington, New York and Milwaukee, but LA plays the flashdance running game. Boston is anxious to cut in.
"It's always good for us to run," says Jones. "Milwaukee let us run a little in the last three games. In this series, both teams will live and die with the break."
The Lakers had rebounding difficulties against Phoenix. "If that's their Achilles' heel, I feel we can exploit it," says Cedric Maxwell. "We're one of the better rebounding teams in the league."
When Jones is asked if he thinks Parish can neutralize the 37-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, he says, "No, but I don't think anybody can. Kareem can be so devastating that he can make you feel hopeless."
"I've never seen anybody make Kareem lose his concentration," adds Parish, whose scoring has dropped to 14.6 ppg in postseason play. "I've never seen anybody who can change his shot. I'll just try to keep him as far away from the basket as possible."
The Lakers figure to start Kurt Rambis and Michael Cooper up front with Abdul-Jabbar. The multitalented Worthy started LA's clinching victory against Phoenix Friday night, but Riley probably wants Cooper to guard Bird, with Worthy coming off the bench to take McHale.
Bob McAdoo and Worthy are Riley's top frontcourt subs. Jamaal Wilkes is coming back slowly from a lengthy illness and wasn't a lot of help against Phoenix. Maxwell warns, "They need him. I don't think they can win without Jamaal."
Mike McGee will probably start in the backcourt with Magic. Cooper and rookie Byron Scott give the Lakers additional size and shooting from the guard position.
The ever-candid McHale says, "They've got a very good basketball team, but they're going to have to play better than they have to this point if they hope to win."
The Lakers got up early yesterday and flew to Boston, arriving in the Hub in the early evening. The game is at 1 p.m., which will be 10 a.m. on their body clocks. Last year, the Lakers lost Game 1 of the finals in Philadelphia after traveling all day Saturday from San Antonio . . . LA beat the Celtics in both regular-season meetings. The Lakers took a 111-109 decision in the Garden Feb. 8, then beat the Celtics (without Wilkes and McAdoo) in LA, 116-108, Feb. 24. Cooper held Bird to 14 points and 12 shots in the Forum. DJ hit only nine of 34 shots against LA (.265). Abdul-Jabbar made 23 of 37 (.622) against Boston, Worthy 18 of 28 (.643) . . . The Celtics outrebounded the Lakers, 93-82 . . . Boston assistant coach Chris Ford scouted the Lakers in Phoenix Friday night . . . Today will be Magic's fourth Garden appearance. He was injured when the Lakers playerd here in '81 and '82 . . . LA general manager Jerry West, who was on six Lakers' teams that lost finals to Boston, says, "I've always felt we've had a very special relationship with that team back there. They really were better, but it was a great rivalry. It's never been an ugly rivalry. The people in Boston appreciate good basketball." . . . Ironically, today also marks the one-year anniversary of Bill Fitch's Nixonian resignation.
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