BOSTON — They will not jump it up today. They will ring a bell instead.
Out will come the Celtics. Out will come the Rockets. They will circle one another, looking for an open shot, looking a rebound, looking for a . . .
Fight? Who said fight?
“And it’s a good opening left jab by Larry Bird,” the announcer says. “And you see Ralph Sampson go right for the head. The top of the head, of course.
“There’s K.C. Jones stripping off his shirt. And Bill Fitch putting in his mouthpiece, and . . . “
Hold it. Whoa. There will be none of that. Those theatrics are over. They went out with Game 5 of this NBA final series — the night of the Ralph Sampson vs. Jerry Sichting and Akeem Olajuwon vs. Dennis Johnson bouts. No more fisticuffs. No residual bad feelings. The Rockets and Celtics enter Boston Garden today for Game 6 like new-born kittens, all cuddly and good-natured.
The game is the thing today. With a win, the Celtics take the NBA crown. With a win, the Rockets force a Game 7 — going far beyond what everyone expected, taking the measure of the men in green, putting up an unbelievable .
Fight? Who said fight?
“And the chairs are flying,” the announcer screams, “and there goes the popcorn. And there goes the popcorn vendor. Olajuwon lifts Danny Ainge and stuffs him through the basket. Bill Walton lifts Allen Leavell and stuffs him through the other basket — and he’s fouled. He’ll go to the line to shoot Mitchell Wiggins . . . ” Steamy Garden salad?
Please. Your imagination is running wild. There will be no trouble. No angry feelings from the Boston Garden crowd. Remember, after Game 5 in Houston, when K.C. Jones predicted the Boston fans today would be “oh, pretty docile, you know — just there to watch the game.” You thought he was kidding? Being sarcastic? Not at all.
The Celtics fans will be on their best behavior. They will wait in line patiently for paper cups full of their favorite beverage. They will be cheery and good-spirited and well- groomed. No one will be without a shirt. No one will wave a dirty sign. No one will holler “Houston S—-!” Each and every fan will politely find his or her seat, and the already-seated patrons will let them pass without a . . .
Who keeps saying “fight?”
“And Red Auerbach just dumped a box of cigars on Ray Patterson!” the announcer screams. “And Patterson retaliates with a gallon of oil on Red’s shoes! The referees are gone. The players are in a pile at center court. Jerry Sichting has Robert Reid in the pretzel hold. Jim Petersen has Kevin McHale in the salami lock. And . . . “
Stop that. Right now. There is no basis for such thinking. Everything will be fine. Everything will be peaceful.
Forget that Boston play-by-play man Johnny Most called Sampson “gutless” and “yellow” during Game 5. That was a slip of the tongue. The broadcasters will be completely impartial today.
Forget that the Houston crowd called for an encore appearance by Sampson after Game 5, and he came out to a rousing roar of applause. They were clapping because they like him, not because of the, uh . . .
The uh . . .
“And the the whole upper deck has attacked the lower deck with cotton candy sticks,” the announcer screams, “and it’s bedlam here at the Garden, absolute bedlam . . . ” May the best team win
Now look. Just because Boston Garden is a tinder box, just because Sichting
likened Sampson’s punches to “a mosquito,” just because Dennis Johnson grumbled “We’re not even yet” with a bandage over his left temple Thursday night, just because retaliation seems to be the thing to do does not mean it will be done.
Once this series was just a lounge act, something Boston fans had to sit through to get to the big event; the crowning of the Celtics as world champions. But now — through some magnificent basketball — this has become a bona fide struggle. A real NBA final. Houston vs. Boston. Three games to two. May the best team win.
The players are smart enough to know that. The announcers are smart enough. The fans are smart enough. No pretzel-holds. No stuffing each other through the hoop.
They will jump it up to start today’s game. They will not need a bell. And if they do, and you are watching at home, you should simply get up and switch the channel. After all, wouldn’t you rather switch than . . .
Who keeps saying that? CUTLINE: Jerry Sichting