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Was That Tiger or Ray Williams?

On a day when Inglewood turned into Entanglewood, the restless natives arrived early, just so they could heckle the guys from out of town. It was barely 11:30 in the morning when some of the Boston Celtics started shooting around. Camp followers of the L.A. Lakers promptly lined up to hurl barbs at M.L. Carr, Kevin McHale and the like.

But for every insult, the Celtics had an answer. “Hey, M.L.! You guys are finished!” a kid said.

“Aw, go back to your seat,” said Carr, pointing to the highest rows of the Forum.

“Hey, McHale! If you pull that rough stuff again, Rambis will knock you on your butt!” “Yeah?” asked McHale. “Well, I got a two-year-old daughter who could whip you .”

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One kid in particular refused to let up, so Carr borrowed assistant coach Chris Ford’s 1984 NBA championship ring, slipped it onto a finger and waved it in the kid’s face. He even took off the ring and showcased it for the kid, using a basketball as a pedestal. After which, Carr conducted the group, Mitch Miller style, in a rousing chorus of “Boston (inhales)! Boston (inhales)!”

The Celtics were ready for anything--before the game.

But the Falklands were ready for England, Hearns was ready for Hagler and the skipper of the Orca was ready for the shark. By the time L.A. had put away its 136-111 slaughter Sunday at the Forum, the Celtics were wondering what hit them. Or, at the very least, who hit them back.

At last, the timid, milquetoast Lakers got angry. They howled. They scowled. They rassled. They huffed, puffed and brought down the house. One minute, Kurt (First Blood) Rambis was putting a figure-four leglock on Danny Ainge or being body-slammed out of bounds by rowdy Ray Williams. Next minute, Bob (the Bruiser) McAdoo was mixing it up with McHale, and a minute after that, Magic (Mr. Wonderful) Johnson was taking his turn in the ring with McHale. Sometimes, the players even played basketball.

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“I don’t know why they get all upset,” McHale later wondered. “Everybody gets tangled up somewhere along the line. They’re making a big deal out of nothing. We’re always tangling here and tangling there. Basketball players are always getting tangled. They shouldn’t be acting like it’s the end of the world.”

So, are the Celtics ticked off at the Lakers because of all this?

“Yes, sir!” McHale said. “We’re mad now.” Thus, the stage is set for Game 4. The teams will come out fighting Wednesday night, so filled with fury and indignation that at some point some Celtic probably will try to pick up Debra Winger’s courtside chair and conk some unsuspecting Laker over the head with it. That’s about how bad it got Sunday. When Williams rode Rambis to the sidelines, it was no better or worse than anything one might see on televised pro wrestling. It had everything short of an interview with McHale saying: Ve vill destroy zese Lakers Vednesday night !

Larry Bird had the right idea, probably. “What we should do is meet out in the parking lot somewhere and fight them and get it out of our systems. I don’t know if the league is ready for that, but the Celtics are.”

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It was hard to believe this was Inglewood. The real Forum, the one in Rome, very rarely had this kind of bloodthirsty action, even when the lions had the Christians over for Sunday brunch. If only the L.A. Kings had been in the building, one could have expected all sorts of body contact. (Well, some sort.) But this game of basketball had more goonery and buffoonery than hockey. Rambis and Ainge should have done two minutes apiece for spearing. Williams was ejected, but what he should have gotten was a game misconduct. At least it served notice that the Lakers were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. “There’s definitely a different air about them, like a team on a mission,” Boston’s Quinn Buckner said. “I assume they were trying to say something out there today.” Buckner himself came away bruised, when Larry Spriggs charged right over him the way a steamroller flattens Sylvester the cat in a Saturday cartoon.

These are the new Lakers, the tough Lakers, the mean Lakers, the nasty Lakers. Last year’s players were meek in the NBA final. They were more like the Quaker Lakers. But the team that took the floor Sunday, the team that mopped the floor with the Celtics, was not to be trifled with.

“Nobody appreciates or deserves cheap shots,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. “There are going to be times when there is bumping and inadvertent contact and it gets rough out there, and that’s part of the game. But there were times today when it was more than just bumping. I’m going to protect myself in times like those. I’m not going to let anyone intimidate me.” This is good news, for the Lakers, for their fans and especially for the kid who can’t beat up Kevin McHale’s daughter.


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