Larry was King Again

June 9, 1986

    Walking through the joyous Boston Celtics' locker room Sunday was to appreciate the tapestry of a champion.   Woven into the Celtics' 114-97 blowout of the Houston Rockets for the National Basketball Association championship was far more than an abundance of points and rebounds. Somewhere in a dingy catacomb of ancient Boston Garden, somewhere in the most innovative recesses of Red Auerbach's mind, there is a secret, grand design for who and what is a Boston Celtic and why he is the best.

    That Celtic pride is what drove Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton to a sobering pact that the consumption of alcoholic beverages was forbidden until banner No. 16 was secured. There is a special rapport that compels these marvelous athletes to share the basketball on the court and to weave some of the fibers of their lives together off the court.

    Watch Bird, the series MVP and most eligible Celtic bachelor, playing with 10-year-old Adam Walton and the other Celtic children, taking them out for lunch and over to his house. Listen to McHale as he affectionately calls Adam's dad, Bill, "an old hippie" and one of the most genuine persons he
will ever encounter. Appreciate the gratitude of ex-Indiana Pacer Jerry Sichting as he reflects on his journey from Siberia to Utopia.

    The Houston Rockets dared to defy this most sacred of sports institutions. Young and bold and heady from the hooting and hollering of countless Texans in three games last week, they overstepped their boundary by pointing fingers, gesturing and publicly denouncing all that is and was the
Boston Celtics.

    "Hurt anything you want, but don't hurt the one thing that pulls us all together--Celtic pride," McHale said. "You're not just hurting us, you're also hurting Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Tommy Heinsohn and all the rest. Don't threaten our self-esteem.

    "Houston did something to us that really made us mad. They didn't hurt our bodies or our health in Game 5. They hurt our pride. This team is made up of very strong characters, and you shouldn't make us mad."     It wasn't long Sunday before that anger manifested itself. A 13-2 Celtic run early in the second quarter provided a 44-30 lead. It only got worse for the Rockets after that. A deafening Garden crowd hoisted 10,000 "Sampson is a sissy" posters in reference to 7-foot-4-inch Ralph Sampson's fight with 6-1 Sichting in Game 5. He was roundly booed whenever he touched the ball.

Although he wouldn't dwell on it, the nonstop hazing probably contributed to his subpar performance of eight points and 10 rebounds.     So zealous, so hellbent on a beating were these Celtics that Bird wanted nothing less than a 20-point lead at halftime. He had to settle for 55-38, but there was no mistaking the implication. It was lights out.

    Rallying around Sichting, the Celtics wanted to bury the Rockets. And after they were six feet under, Bird spit on the grave with a three-point basket in the fourth quarter. Even though his team was ahead by 23, Bird scooped up a loose ball, dribbled back to three-point range and stuck it in
Houston's face.

    "That may have been the rusty dagger to their heart," Celtic reserve guard Rick Carlisle said. "Let's face it, Larry was in one of his Charles Bronson moods."     Bird finished with the second triple double of the series: 29 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists. McHale had 29 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots; Danny Ainge 19 points and Walton 10 points and eight rebounds. Rockets' center Akeem Olajuwon managed only 19 points against Robert Parish. Rockets' leader Robert Reid got only 12 against Dennis Johnson. When the Celtics left the court after three quarters with an 82-61 lead, the last 12 minutes were anticlimatic.

    "We just didn't play our game the way we had to," Sampson said. "I would have preferred to get into the low post early and get into the game as much as I could offensively. That didn't happen. We weren't the best team today. That's it."     "I thought we did a pretty good job of blocking out the crowd," Rockets' forward Jim Petersen said. "They weren't intimidating. The only thing that was intimidating was the way the Celtics played basketball."

    The victory gave Boston the series four games to two and ended a 100-game season in which the Celtics won a league-record 82 times. They finished the season with a 50-1 record at home, including 41 straight since losing to Portland on Dec. 6.

"This is our kingdom," assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers said about the Garden.   Larry Bird is their king.    "In this series, I think I played extremely well four of the first five games," Bird said. "I tried to do other things. When I shoot a lot, my teammates have a tendency to stand around.

    "No question, this has got to be the best. I've never been so pumped up. The intensity on this team was as high as I've ever seen it."   "It was like we were on a magical, mystery tour this season," McHale said. "Bill came along and there was never any problems between him and Robert. Jerry came along, and I'm not kidding, it was a magical year. It was like we were destined to win the world championship.

    "We all set off one another, grew off each other, matured. We stayed together, played together, we had fun together and razzed each other. It was something special. Winning the championship has so much to do with everything else in life. I never thought winning a championship could dictate so much
about how good you feel about yourself."

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