"I congratulated him and told him he was halfway home," said Morgan. "Then I said, 'Do you know when you're going to enjoy this most? Sometime in the middle of July, when you're sitting with your feet up, holding a beer.' "
The Celtics demolished the Knicks on Saturday afternoon. They set NBA single-game playoff records for points (157) and field goal percentage (.670), and set or tied eight team records. The old men now seemed to be the smart men, keepers of important playoff secrets. The younger Knicks were reeling, one game away from elimination in the best-of-five series that was headed to Madison Square Garden, where it resumes Wednesday night.
"They aren't going to hand it to us," said Bird diplomatically to a circle of sportswriters in the locker room after the Saturday massacre. "But if we can just weather the first couple of quarters in New York, we'll be O.K."
"What about the Bruins?" someone asked.
End of diplomacy. "They're going to win it all," said Bird. "I know they are. I said if they got past Hartford in the first round, they'd win it all. They're playing great. I'm rooting for 'em as hard as everyone else. They've never won the Stanley Cup since I've been here. This would be really great."
Around and around. The Red Sox's victory on Friday over the A's was accomplished with a two-out, two-run single in the ninth by centerfielder Ellis Burks. The other hitting star was leftfielder Mike Greenwell, who entered the game with a .173 batting average, no home runs and one run batted in. He homered twice and added a single in the ninth. Afterward, he disclosed that he had received a helpful batting tip from Celtics forward Kevin McHale. Of course. McHale had sent him a message: "Drop your front shoulder and be patient." Greenwell dropped his front shoulder and became patient. Two homers and a single. Of course.
"I really don't know Kevin," said Greenwell. "I met him once, but it was a long time ago. I just think an athlete, another athlete, any sport, sometimes can see something you're doing wrong. I'll listen, sure. Tell him thanks."
On Saturday, playing at the same time as the Celtics, the Red Sox did their best to match the Garden rout. They led 4-0 at the end of the first inning and 6-0 at the end of the second en route to a 12-3 romp. On the floor of the Garden, Knick forward Kenny Walker looked as if a firecracker had exploded at his feet when the crowd yelled as the first baseball score was flashed. What was that? Had Green-well sent a return message of advice to McHale? (Dear Kevin, wait for our score to be announced, and then drive past Walker while he is still surprised.)
The A's had arrived at Fenway with an 8-0 record on the road. Suddenly they were losers to two fill-in starters in the Red Sox's ragged rotation, Dana Kiecker and Greg Harris. The Red Sox were a half-game out of first place. First place?
On Sunday attention finally could be concentrated on baseball. The pitching matchup was one of those happy blips on the 162-game schedule, a convergence of time and tide and the best two starters in the young season. Oakland's Dave Stewart, 4-0 going in the game, faced Boston's Roger Clemens, who was also 4-0. Not even the arrival of a damp cold front, causing temperatures to drop 50° from the 95° heat of Saturday, could take away from the attraction. This was ace against ace, no stopping.