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NBA Championship Notes : Lakers Needed a Strong Showing by Kupchak

Times Staff Writer

On the day after Boston’s 148-114 victory over the Lakers in Game 1 of the championship series, the Celtics’ shooting stars, Danny Ainge and Scott Wedman, were besieged by the media.

Saturday, after the Lakers’ first workout since their 109-102 victory in Game 2, forward Mitch Kupchak was the man who couldn’t take a step without tripping over a reporter’s feet or a cameraman’s cord.

“This is the first time I’ve seen more than one person around my locker in two years,” Kupchak said. “I must have done something right.”

From looking at the box score, Kupchak’s contributions in Game 2 don’t appear that significant. In 15 minutes, he had five points and five rebounds.

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But the Celtics will be the first to admit that Kupchak, 6-10, 230, was a factor in the Lakers’ victory because of the muscle he applied to Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. When Laker Coach Pat Riley says Kupchak played a strong 15 minutes, he means it literally.

“Kupchak came in and slapped people around,” Boston Coach K.C. Jones said.

In the Eastern Conference, to say that a player slaps people around is a compliment.

Indeed, the reason a lot of experts don’t think the Lakers can win this series is because they don’t have enough players who slap people around.

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Kupchak said that’s a bad rap. The Lakers, he said, can slap with anybody.

“It bothers me to hear that we’re just a finesse team,” he said. “I played five years with the Washington Bullets. You’ve seen the way they play.”

They slap.

“But our practices are as aggressive as any in Washington,” Kupchak said. “We have the capability to be as physical as any team.

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“The thing is that it’s easier for our team to run up and down the court and score 15 points in the same amount of time it takes some teams to grind it out for four points. . . .”

This is Riley’s fourth season as the Lakers’ head coach and the fourth straight season the team has reached the championship series. Each time, his message to the Lakers has been the same: No rebounds, no rings.

All they have to do is look at the box scores. In Game 1, the Celtics outrebounded the Lakers, 48-35. In Game 2, the Lakers outrebounded the Celtics, 49-37. . . .

After shooting .654 from the field in the Denver series, .625 from three-point range, Laker guard Byron Scott made only 10 of 31 shots in the two games at Boston Garden.

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“I’m definitely going to get untracked at the Forum,” he said. “I know the floor, the background, the whole place. At the Garden, I didn’t.

“But even though James (Worthy), myself and Magic, if you really look at it, haven’t played that well, we’re still tied.” . . .

Larry Bird has nothing but praise for Jones’ handling of the Celtics.

“In a game against Portland, I was coming downcourt one on three,” Bird said. “K.C. was hollering, ‘Set up, set up.’ I knew I had to shoot to make him mad.

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“I didn’t even look at the shot. I just turned around to him and said, ‘Too late, Coach.’

“He just shrugged. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t say that I embarrassed him or tried to show him up or anything like that.

“I’ve never had a coach like K.C. With all the championships he’s won as a player and a coach, it would be easy for him to have an ego bigger than the players. But he knows that would blow it.”

About that shot in Portland, someone asked, did you make it?

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“Yeah, I made it,” Bird said, sounding offended. . . .

Bird scored 30 points in Game 2, but he made only 9 of 21 shots and didn’t have a field goal in the last seven minutes. To be more effective offensively, he said he needs to play down low, closer to the basket.

“If he wants to go low, hey, that’s where we’ll put him,” Jones said. “We’ll get the ball to him down there.” Riley said that’s where Bird hurt the Lakers most in Games 5, 6 and 7 last year.

Boston center Robert Parish worked out Saturday at the Forum after missing Friday’s practice in Boston because of a contusion of his right rear. Guard Danny Ainge also practiced Saturday despite a minor groin pull.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a small part in the new Chevy Chase movie, “Fletch.” Boston’s McHale is in the latest Bruce Springsteen video. . . . Boston guard Dennis Johnson, who went to high school in Compton and college at Pepperdine, still lives in Los Angeles during the off-season. A free agent after this season, he is keeping his options open. “I always know where I’m going to live when I’m retired,” he said. “I just don’t know where I’m going to play next year.”

Milestones: With 20 more points, Abdul-Jabbar will become the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer. He will surpass the Laker general manager, Jerry West. . . . Magic Johnson became the first player ever to reach 1,000 assists in the playoffs Thursday night. . . . Riley’s playoff record is 46-19, the highest winning percentage in NBA history. Only six coaches, two active, have won more playoff games than Riley. With one more victory, he will tie Tom Heinsohn, now a CBS analyst.


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