They also were down 3-2 and riddled with injuries. Keith Erickson twisted his ankle early in Friday's game. Westphal's left knee was wrenched, and Awtrey was limping on a sore foot. Still, the Suns maintained their belligerence. "We know we're going to beat them," said Heard. "It's going to take seven now, but we're going to beat them. We showed we came to play."
"They earned their respect," Paul Silas acknowledged from the Boston dressing room.
Earlier in the week, the talk had been of retaliatory strikes. Boston had pushed Phoenix around in winning the first two games, and the Suns had complained long and loud. Then, in Game 3 the Suns showed some muscle of their own. "We're going to go down swinging," said Colangelo. Meanwhile, everyone was trying to figure out what exactly was meant by "tactile contact," which is permitted by NBA rules, and how to relate it to the bump-and-run tactics used by the Celtics.
The fourth game in Phoenix on Wednesday was slowed by fouls at the start. Officials Don Murphy and Manny Sokol called 21 penalties in the first 10 minutes and Heinsohn set a new record for footage on the isolated TV camera as he complained, mocked, stormed, gestured, feigned bewilderment and conducted classes in sideline theater of the absurd.
Still Boston hung close, down by two points with 1:34 to go before Sobers drove the middle and invented a shot that blasted off the backboard and through the net. When White missed a jumper near the buzzer, Phoenix had a 109-107 win. Afterward, Heinsohn said the game lacked only cheerleaders and acne. "It was high school," he roared.
"They cheat," said Charlie Scott. "If they don't want us to play, tell us to stay home."
Only Cowens and Havlicek offered voices of reason. Cowens said he was sick of the complaints about the refereeing. And Hondo pointed out the Celtics were not showing much intelligence. "How dumb can we be?" he asked. "They call fouls if you touch them and we get into a hand-slapping contest." Heinsohn's theatrics throughout the series came under close scrutiny as the media in Phoenix and Boston and points in between sneered at his flamboyant behavior and dissected his strategy, giving credence to the coach's belief that he was being persecuted—a feeling fostered, no doubt, by his having to look over Auerbach's head every time he turned around.
Meanwhile, the suave MacLeod was being hailed as the great innovator, as much for his tasteful suits and ties as for his prescience and an enlightened offense. Walking from the Boston Garden on Friday night, Westphal was told by Silas that Heinsohn was ill.
"Gee, I hope he's all right," said Westphal. "Our team needs him in there."
But Boston had obviously learned something from its mistakes. In Game 6 the Celtics used their feet instead of their hands on defense, and Heinsohn restrained himself on the sidelines. After all, he was a coach who had taken a team that lacked the old Celtic depth and put it on the road to the championship.