PISTONS, CELTS START SERIES TONIGHT (JUST PLAY ALONG)

BOSTON — I vote we make the logical decision here. I vote we do the only decent thing.

I vote we forget Game 1 ever happened.

“Great series starting tonight,” I say, as I sit in the coffee shop across from Boston Garden. “Two great teams, meeting for the Eastern Conference title. Yes, sir. Should be a heck of a series.”

“What about Game 1?” says a man next to me.

“Beg your pardon?”

“Game 1? Tuesday night?”

“This is Game 1. Tonight. Thursday.”

“What about Tuesday? What about the Boston Garden? What about that Game 1?”

“Beg your pardon?”

Tuesday night? What Tuesday night? He must be confused. Tuesday night, Isiah Thomas was home watching television with his wife. Tuesday night, Adrian Dantley went to the movies. Tuesday night, Chuck Daly curled up with a good book. I think it was “Iacocca.” Or maybe “Yeager.” I’m not sure.

And Wednesday morning the Pistons arrived here. They had a positive workout. And now they are ready for a tough sev– uh, six-game series. A very tough six-game series. Yes, yes.

“No, no,” says the Boston person. “I saw it. Tuesday night. At the Garden. Game 1. The Celtics won, 104-91. The Pistons looked terrible. There were air balls, and technical fouls, and standing around, and more technical fouls. And then Boston won and everybody went home. I saw it. I swear.”

“What is in that food you’re eating?” I ask. Isiah 6-for-24? Oh, right

Air balls? Did he say air balls? Terrible? Who played terrible? Detroit? No. They weren’t here, I told you. Now, maybe somebody else came in wearing their uniforms. I don’t know. There are a lot of crazy people out there.

“Tell me something,” I say, as my breakfast arrives. “What did Isiah Thomas, the Pistons’ star guard, the guy who had his sneakers immortalized in the Atlanta series — what did he do in this Game 1 of yours?”

“He shot 6-for-24,” comes the answer.

“Sure he did,” I say, nodding my head slowly. “Uh, could you pass the syrup please?”

Come now. Nobody named Isiah shoots 6-for-24. Even guys named Seth can shoot 6-for-24. Who is kidding whom here? I suppose Adrian Dantley only shot four free throws. I suppose the Pistons just raced back and forth throwing up bricks, as if they had nothing better to do.

“They did!” says the Boston person. “I saw Rick Mahorn and John Salley and Joe Dumars . . . “

“Listen, fellah,” I say. “Joe Dumars went bowling Tuesday night. John Salley was buying records. Rick Mahorn was the guest speaker at a new Weight Watchers clinic in West Bloomfield.”

“Tuesday night?” he says.

“Tuesday night,” I say. “Pass the butter.”

Honestly. Some people don’t know when to leave bad enough alone. The game to which he refers would be a terrible way to start a series such as this, a series between a fresh, talented, hungry Detroit team and a grizzled, wounded, proud team from Boston. A series such as that should feature precision shooting, masterful passing, high percentages all around.

“Tell me,” I ask, reaching for the sugar. “You say Robert Parish, the guy with the terribly sore ankle, scored 31 points? You say Kevin McHale, the guy with the terribly sore foot, scored 21 points? What about Larry Bird? The one

Celtic who’s healthy? How did Larry Bird do in this game of yours?”

“He shot 7-for-22,” comes the answer.

“Sure he did,” I say, nodding slowly. Jerry Sichting? Sure, sure

Here is your choice. Reality as it is or reality as it should be. A stale beginning or a fresh beginning. When artists mess up, they throw out the canvas. When accountants spill ink, they just take out a new balance sheet. What would a sane person choose here? Compassion and beauty or cold truth and an ugly, ugly basketball game?

“Look,” I say. “If this all truly happened, just as you say, then who was the player of the game? Who was the guy the radio stations interviewed when it was over? Who got the gift certificate? Tell me that. Just tell me who got the gift certificate as player of the game?”

“Jerry Sichting,” he whispers.

I choke on my pancakes.

No. Sorry. I vote for compassion. I vote for beauty. I vote for tonight, 8:30, Game 1 of this soon-to-be-incredible Eastern Conference final.

Best of six.

“Wait a minute,” says the Boston voice. “There’s no such thing as a six-game series. How do you win a six-game series? What if each team wins three? What do you do then?”

“Well, then you go to a Game 7,” I say.

“You mean Game 8,” he says.

“Whatever,” I say.

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