Danny Ainge Decides to Crash the Party
May 31, 1987
A Wall Street type thinker might not consider either Danny Ainge or Scott Wedman prudent long-term investments, but for at least one playoff game the Celtics were able to forget about how much more they have always expected from either of these two oft-frustrated athletes.
The fact is that without their contributions last night the Celtics could not have defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, by any score. There has been perpetual yelping during the last several years over the Celtics' desperate need for some outside shooting to balance their famed inside game. In this vital 124-121 overtime triumph over LA, Messrs. Ainge and Wedman provided that marksmanship.
Ainge bunched his six field goals in two key Celtic runs, the first four coming in the first half and the other two at the end of the third period, after the Lakers had taken their first lead of the night. Most were in transitions, beautiful stop-and-poppers that passed softly through the net. It was the Danny Ainge of the UCLA massacre, as well as the Danny Ainge for whom the Celtics went to trial with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Danny Ainge in whom they have invested a lot of money.
Wedman, whose year-and-a-half Celtic tenure has been extremely unsatisfying for all parties, added five field goals, including the biggest of the game, a 13-footer from the left baseline with 14 seconds remaining in OT that merely gave Boston the victory.
Wedman was one half of an offense-defense shuttle with Cedric Maxwell at the time, and when he received the ball he didn't hesitate. "We had played great defense," said LA coach Pat Riley. "We had doubled on (Larry) Bird to make him give up the ball. We made the next guy (Gerald Henderson) give it up. Finally it went to Wedman, and he buried it.
"I've always respected Scott," Riley continued. "He's a smart veteran player. He sat most of the year, but he had the presence of mind and the attitude to give his team help when caled upon. A lot of guys can't do that."
It was the precise sort of contribution envisioned when the Celtics acquired Wedman from the Cavaliers a year ago January. It's not as if Wedman, a one-time All-Star, was some sort of NBA secret weapon.
"We wondered what the Celtics were doing at the time," said Jamaal Wilkes. "Bird hadn't yet signed his new deal, so possibly they wanted Scott as some kind of insurance. That's pretty heavy insurance."
This is true. Wedman was making over $800,000 when he came here, and that's serious money (even if a lot of it is being paid by the other team) for a man who can't scare up too many minutes of playing time on a team with Bird, Maxwell and Kevin McHale at the forward slot.
As for Ainge, this has not exactly been the Year of the (Ex)-Cougar, either. It was assumed in some circles that Ainge would benefit greatly by the Celtics' coaching change, but instead he lost his starting job - however ceremonial it was - and played no larger role under K.C. Jones than he had under Bill Fitch. His playoff function has been that of a subordinate who gives regulars a quick blow.
But when he entered the game last night he was ready. He connected on his first three shots as the Celtics were expanding their lead to as many as 13 (33-20, 35-22), as he stayed on the floor long enough to stick in another second-period jumper. It was a scene reminiscent of the famous Milwaukee Game 2 of a year ago when he went insane during the first half.
It's obvious Ainge feels his big problem is simply playing time. "I always feel I can shoot," he said with a shrug. "Tonight I hit my first couple so I was able to stay in there a little longer. He (K.C.) didn't feel he had to go to anybody else."
Of course, every player who has ever lived feels his only need is some more "PT." And there are always people moaning about Wedman's lack of playing time.
"Yes," said Riley, "they found something to do with him at a very appropriate time, didn't they?"
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