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GAME 3 : Garden vs. Forum: It’s as Different as East and West

Times Staff Writer

On the occasion of his first visit to the Boston Garden, Akeem Olajuwon was given a guided tour by John Lucas, his Houston Rocket teammate.

Here’s the famous parquet floor, and there’s the place where Havlicek stole the ball that everybody still talks about, Lucas said as he showed Olajuwon around. Lucas took Olajuwon over to where Bill Russell used to stand and to the spot where Larry Bird throws in his three-pointers.

Then they looked up at the ceiling and saw all of those championship banners hanging from the rafters. Lucas brought the tour to a close with a question:

“Well, Akeem, what do you think?”.

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“This place is a dump,” Olajuwon said.

Obviously, the appeal of Boston Garden is not universally shared. It’s more of an acquired taste, for those who like dusty old attics where history is in a trunk.

But the way the National Basketball Assn. championship series is going, there is a chance that there won’t be another game played in Boston Garden.

Welcome, Celtics, to the Forum, your home away from home for the next three games. This is the place you’ll be spending the next week.

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Enjoy the air conditioning. You do remember air conditioning? Go ahead, watch the Laker girls during timeouts. Feel free to dribble on a floor where the ball actually returns to your hand after you bounce it.

“I found a wad of gum on the floor at the Garden,” Laker trainer Gary Vitti said. “I was afraid to move it because I thought it was holding the floor together.”

There has been much said about the new format for this season’s championship series. The middle three games are played on the floor of the team without the home-court advantage.

Because the series is tied 1-1, with Game 3 at 12:30 p.m. today at the Forum, if either the Celtics or the Lakers manage to sweep these three games, there won’t be any more games in the Garden this year.

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For the players, this possibility has many implications.

No heat prostration because of the actual circulation of refrigerated air.

No fighting for position to stand under one of the two shower nozzles in the visiting team’s locker room.

Hey, there are eight shower nozzles in the Forum’s locker rooms.

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Besides the wonder of plumbing, things are even better out on the court.

The lighting is good, the floor is fine and even the chairs where the players sit on the sideline are better. In Boston Garden, they’re metal folding chairs. In the Forum, they’re padded chairs for the utmost in player comfort.

So why all the griping about playing these games in the Forum? What’s so bad about having to play the next three games on something besides parquet?

“Nothing at all,” the Celtics’ Cedric Maxwell said. “I love this place, even better than the Garden. If I could, I’d dismantle the Forum brick by brick and move it to Boston.

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“It’s a nice, open court and the background is good,” he said. “It’s not a cluttered up place at all.”

What would the Garden be without its clutter? It still wouldn’t be the Forum, which has some history of its own, just not as much as the Garden.

In 15 seasons of playoffs at the Forum, the Lakers are 76-27, but only 6-4 against the Celtics.

The Celtics have been in the playoffs 32 times. Their playoff record at the Garden is 144-51 and 19-9 against the Lakers.

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“We like that old parquet floor,” said the Celtics’ M.L. Carr.

The Lakers have played in the Forum since December of 1967. The Celtics played their first game in Boston Garden in 1946, long enough for whole generations of rodents to become part of the place’s folklore.

There is a story, probably apocryphal, about the rodents of Boston Garden. In size at least, these were not your typical, Garden-variety rats.

They were so big, normal rat traps wouldn’t work, so workmen poured trays of fresh concrete before they left the Garden at night. The next morning, the immobilized rats were clubbed with baseball bats.

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Efforts to verify this story failed.

Certainly, the Forum has its share of rats, but the method of their capture is little different. In the Forum traps, they use quiche instead of cheese.

Then there are the Forum fans, laid back in their cushioned chairs. So mellow, right? Not in Carr’s estimation. Don’t tell him that the fans in the Forum act any better than those in the Garden, not after what happened to him when he walked off the court after Game 4 last season.

Carr, who had a cup of some unknown liquid splashed in his face by a Laker fan, was temporarily blinded. He wore goggles the next game.

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“I could very easily have to be led in here this time,” Carr said. “They say the Garden fans are such a problem. Well, we’re not going to be intimidated by any crowd. It won’t happen to this team.”

Carr went on to say that it made little difference to him where the next three games would be played.

“It could be the Garden, the Forum or over on Sunset Boulevard,” he said. “The court’s the same length, the basket is still 10-feet high and we still have two officials.”

But there are still distractions for teams playing in the Forum, not the least of which are the Laker girls. Dennis Johnson said it is sometimes difficult in the huddle to keep one eye on K.C. Jones and the other on the Laker girls.

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“I think everybody looks at the Laker girls doing their dancing moves,” he said. “But that’s just L.A.

“Look, this is an excellent place to play,” Dennis Johnson said. “You can walk up and down the floor dribbling and the ball will come back every time. In the Garden, you couldn’t dribble three times without finding a dead spot.”

Johnson admitted that there is much that could be done to improve the Garden, and there are some people in Boston who agree. Of the three sports arena plans being studied, two of them recommend that the Garden be abandoned.

“It’s a shame that a team like us has to play in a place like that,” Bird said.

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For the next three games, they don’t have to. They’re in the Fabulous Forum, where dribblers can dribble, the floor is springy, the rims are loose and there’s plenty of room in the shower.

It’s a wonderful place. How do we know this? Because Pat Riley tells us so.

“This is one of the warmest places in the league to play,” the Laker coach said, and he didn’t mean that the air conditioning needed to be adjusted.

“It’s a friendly environment,” Riley said. “It’s clean, well-lighted, the floor is even and the hoops are nice and soft. It’s a nice ambiance.”

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In Los Angeles, the word “ambiance” works. It goes along with the Forum, hand and glove (not necessarily Michael Jackson’s). But somehow the words ambiance and Boston Garden don’t seem to belong in the same sentence.

Mitch Kupchak believes the Celtics and Lakers belong in the proper buildings. He said the Forum and the Garden reflect the personalities of the players who work there.

“The Garden is old, it’s withstood 50 or 60 years of basketball, everything’s banged up and the floor’s dirty,” he said. “The Forum is well-lit, newer and as clean as some medical building. It’s what you would think you would see in L.A.”

The Forum is also, for the next three games, what you should think about when considering the championship series.

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Is it parquet or is it better?

This is a matter of opinion, but like it or not, the Forum is where this year’s title could be won. CELTICS-LAKERS SERIES AT A GLANCE THE RESULTS Game 1 Celtics 148, Lakers 114 Game 2 Lakers 109, Celtics 102 THE SCHEDULE

DATE SITE TIME Game 3 Today at Forum 12:30 p.m. Game 4 Wednesday, June 5 at Forum 6:00 p.m. Game 5 Friday, June 7 at Forum 6:00 p.m. Game 6 Sunday, June 9 at Boston 11:00 a.m. Game 7 Tuesday, June 11 at Boston 6:00 p.m.

NOTE--All times PDT. GAMES 6 and 7 if necessary.

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