Has anybody really made heads or tails of pro basketball's current championship series? Without question, it is one of the hardest to sort out in years. Boston now holds a 3-games-to-2 edge in the best-of-7 final, but Houston has already given the Celtics more than they bargained for and could even the series by winning tonight's sixth game in Texas.
If that happens, the teams shuttle back to Boston for the season-ender Sunday afternoon.
Motivation may have been a problem for the Celtics earlier in the series, but it shouldn't be now. Houston ended a 14-game Boston winning streak over the Rockets in Game 2, when Moses Malone & Co. set a National Basketball Association playoff record with their eighth victory on the road.
Playoff basketball just naturally heats up the further into a series two teams go. "You're playing the same guys every time and the personal rivalries get going," says Boston forward Kevin McHale. "Ordinarily you wouldn't see the same opponent for two weeks or so and you forget about any imagined or real problems.
Fanning the flames in the current series have been Malone's verbal put-downs of the Celtics. The bullish Rocket center said the Celtics just aren't that good. He still feels Boston is so-so, even after Houston's embarrassing 109-80 loss Tuesday night. The Rockets also scored a season-low 71 points during a 23 -point defeat in Game 3.
If Boston should go on to win its 14th NBA crown, spindly Cedric Maxwell would appear to have the inside track on the MVP award. The longest-standing member of the current Celtics, with four years in Boston, "Max" has taken up the scoring slack since Larry Bird fell into a sudden shooting slump. Besides scoring 52 points in the last two games, mostly by squeezing up shots through the tangle of bodies near the basket, he has begun playing the inspirational leader role so needed down the stretch.