Ray-Ray himself seemed so determined to end all the cheap talk that he tried to throttle Buckner during the second quarter of Game 5 when the two squared off for some pushing and shoving. Buckner took exception to this but let it pass because, after all, the extracurricular activity seemed to affect Williams, who was 0 for 7 with four turnovers as the Knicks were trounced 121-99.
In that game the Knicks had been attempting to come back from a third-quarter deficit that had reached 27 points when rookie guard Darrell Walker came roaring up the right sideline with the ball. Walker was met there by Celtic guard Danny (Baby Face Half-Nelson) Ainge, who clubbed Walker with both arms. When Walker came up swinging, both benches emptied, the Knicks charge led by the ever-combative Brown, who ended up in the middle of a pile of bodies. When order was restored, Ainge and Walker were both ejected. King, who had left deep slash marks on Johnson's back when he raked him with his fingernails in Game 3, had to be restrained from going after Carr, who had sneaked into the pileup and begun throwing punches. "He's a dirty player," King said of Carr, "and that's unacceptable, especially from someone as insignificant as him."
The war of words was now a flat-out war. When the teams returned to New York for Game 6 on Friday, they were greeted by a headline in the New York Post that yapped KNICKS PREPARE FOR BLOOD BATH IN DO-OR-DIE BATTLE VS CELTS. The sellout Garden crowd roared throughout the national anthem, and for the next two-and-a-half hours the roar rarely subsided. King scored 14 of the Knicks' first 21 points and had 18 at the end of the first quarter. "He wasn't running down the baseline," Maxwell said, "he was flying." Bird didn't start as quickly, but he scored 12 points in the second period and 10 in the third to keep the Celtics close.
With Boston pressuring relentlessly, King kept racing from endline to endline, slicing through arms and bodies, bouncing off bigger defenders for 10 of his 44 points in the final period. "The Knicks ride with Bernard emotionally, and when he's going good he's like the magic carpet, carrying everybody else along on his back," Buckner said.
King's fallaway jumper with 3:31 to play gave New York a 13-point lead, 104-91, but that was the Knicks' last field goal of the game. Haifa minute later it was Bird, flying to the basket, who found himself carrying one of King's teammates on his back. Rory Sparrow hit him with a forearm to the back of the head, a flagrant foul that led to Sparrow's ejection by referee Earl Strom. Even Brown agreed later it was a good call, although he also pointed out that Bird's was the body most impolitic to foul hard in that situation. "You have to remember it happened to Sir Lancelot," Brown said. "It didn't happen to the 12th guy on the team."
Boston had closed to within 106-104 when, in the last six seconds with the Garden about to rock off its underpinnings, Bird missed a short bank shot, and Maxwell's rebound attempt bounced long as the buzzer sounded. "There's no way we thought we'd be in this situation," said Henderson. "I think we may have gotten caught looking around, thinking about who we'd play next."
But on Sunday the Celtics—including Johnson, who tossed in 21 points—were strictly in a New York state of mind. "All I knew was we had a basketball game we had to win," Bird said. "So I had it in my mind that I was going to give myself every opportunity to do that." If winning is all about turf, then perhaps God's most glorious little half acre is the head of whatever pin Larry Bird happens to be dancing on.