Thankfully, the frightening vigilante menace never breaks out to mar the final contest in what has been an exhausting, emotional and dramatic series.
After the Bullets' Chenier (31 points) and the Cavs' Dick Snyder (23) have shot the lights out; after The Old Man and The E ( Cleveland's Nate Thurmond and Washington's Elvin Hayes) have chewed up the low battlegrounds; after both teams have spilled their hearts out there on the wood, fittingly it comes down to 85-85. Cleveland ball. Twenty-four seconds left.
The Cavs work the clock down to nine seconds and call time. "We've got a foul to give. Tell K.C. Tell him," a Bullet executive screams. "Shut up, we know it," another exec screams back.
Suddenly Snyder has the ball isolated on Wes Unseld. He fakes middle, then drives left to the basket. As Chenier rushes under, Snyder is in the air from eight feet, flinging the ball high on the glass. It drops. Cleveland wins 87-85. Instant hysteria.
Multitudes attack the court and swing on the rims and climb on the backboards. There is a moment of panic when, in slow motion, one basket support topples into the crowd.
Kids leap from the stands and flatten press tables. Grown-ups tear posters and throw chairs. The wife of Tiny's trainer blindsides two writers and sends them sprawling. Fights break out. Mob violence threatens. It is The Day of the Locust minus Abe the dwarf.
At 2 a.m. they are still cheering radio replays. Friends hug strangers and kiss and dance into the wee morning. Cleveland Owner Nick Mileti wanders around in a daze. Finally a journalist named Dennis hops down from his barstool and an overwhelming feeling of d�j� vu descends. It must be The Night of the Locust. Dennis is, yes, a dwarf.
New Englanders don't know whether to laugh or cry. Their Boston Celtics had wiped out the Buffalo Braves twice but then Ethnic Purity entered the picture: it was the little prince himself, Ernie DiGregorio.
Ernie D is from Providence, of course. Speaks with broad a's. Knows about quahogs. New England's own. So all the man did for Buffalo in Games Three and Four was scatter the Celtics into Canada with arching mortar passes and clutch baskets. We love our Celtics but, oh, you Ernie. He tied up the series all by himself.