Even though the Boston Celtics used, abused and defused the Houston Rockets Tuesday night in the fifth game of the NBA championship series to take a 3-2 series lead, the Rockets aren't threatening suicide.
"I hope they don't plan to come down here with champagne, because this series is going seven games," said Rocket forward Robert Reid. "We got this far by believing in one another and we'll bounce back. Boston still has to win one more game."
The Celtics will be going for the clincher here THURSDAY (WDVM-TV-9 at 10 p.m., live). As Cedric Maxwell, the star of Boston's 109-80 rout Tuesday night with 28 points and 15 rebounds, said, "We're going down to Houston with the killer instinct. We smell blood."
"We don't feel like we've won it yet, though," said teammate Chris Ford. "We still need one more win and they (the Rockets) need two. We're going to play Thursday's game like it was the last game. We don't want a Game 7 (it would be Sunday in Boston)."
The Celtics were in a similar position last weekend. They humiliated the Rockets, 94-71, Saturday, but lost the next day, 91-86.
"We definitely had a letdown Sunday, after the easy win Saturday," said Maxwell. "That's not going to happen again. We've got a day in between games and that gives us time to think about what happened the last time we were in this position."
"We can still beat this team," Moses Malone said after the fifth game, in which the Celtics did as they pleased the entire contest. "I'm saying this from my heart. Boston isn't that good. I have a lot of respect for them, but we can beat them. We aren't going to do it, though, it we don't play hard and play together."
The Celtics are trying to become the first team with the best regular-season record (62-20, tied by the Philadelphia 76ers) to win the NBA title ince the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celtics controlled the boards and ran virtually at will against the Rockets Tuesday in what Ford called, "a classic example of what happens when we do things right."
It was the first time in the series either team has scored 100 points.
The series' most surprising development so far, other than the fact it has lasted this long, is the defense that the 6-foot-8 Reid has played against Larry Bird.
Bird averaged 26.7 points a game against Julius Erving in the seven-game Eastern Conference finals and Erving was lauded for his defense. Against Reid, who is taller, quicker and a more skilled defender than Erving, Bird is averaging only 13 points a game and shooting 38 percent. t
"I'm just staying with him," Reid said. "I'm not leaving him to help out on anyone else. Wherever Bird goes, I go. I just don't want him to ever be open. If he gets the ball, I try to make him pass it and, once he gives it up, I do my best to make sure he doesn't get it back."
Erving face-guarded Bird, playing most of the time with his back to the ball. Reid uses a more conventional defense, playing off of Bird to the side of the floor the ball is on. That enables him to see picks coming and, once Bird does get the ball, Reid is an ideal defensive position.
There is more to Bird than scoring, of course. He has averaged 15.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists, highs for either team.
"Reid has done a good job on me," Bird said, "but I'm still getting my rebounds and assists and that's what's really important. We don't need for me to score a lot of points for us to win. When Reid can stop me from getting to the boards, when he can keep me under 10 rebounds and four assists, while preventing me from scoring, that's when I'll start talking about how great Robert Reid is."
The Rockets' Calvin Murphy sustained a separated shoulder in Tuesday's game and is out for the remainder of the playoffs.