Now, I’m not saying that Danny Ainge had anything to do with McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis in the 1984 NBA Finals. It was probably an accident, or maybe even a case of mistaken identity. But, if there was some sort of subterfuge going on, it might give some insight into the alleged “War on the Celtics” that Ainge is allegedly waging with the Celtics ownership. After all, if he really was responsible for McHale clotheslining Rambis, then it might help explain why the Celtics have allowed McHale to return to Boston, up one year from his suspension for this event.

As the Boston Celtics prepared for the 1984 NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers, Head Coach Bill Fitch was concerned about his team’s defense. He had lost track of Rambis, who was not performing well against the Celtics’ smaller forwards, especially McHale. Fitch decided the best way to guard McHale was to put 6’7″ 6’9″ 6’10” 6’11” 6’12” 6’13” 6’14” 6’15” 6’16” 6’17” 6’18” 6’19” 6’20” 6’21” 6’22” 6’23” 6’24” 6’25” 6’26” 6’27” 6’28

On May 4, the Warriors traveled to Boston to face the Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Warriors entered the game with a 2-2 series record against Boston, having won the last game in Boston but lost the game before that. They entered the game with a healthy Kevin McHale, who had experience playing against Boston in the playoffs, while the Celtics had entered the game without former Warrior Danny Ainge.

There were many pivotal moments in the 1984 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics were fortunate to be just 2-1 down in the series entering Game 4. The Celtics wanted to make a statement after being blown out and then ripped out by Larry Bird in a nasty Game 3. That’s exactly what Kevin McHale did.

The Celtics escaped with a 129-125 victory on the road thanks to McHale’s notorious clotheslining of Lakers player Kurt Rambis. Danny Ainge should be credited with an assist on McHale’s play on Rambis.

In the 1984 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics were one theft away from going down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Lakers.


Kevin-McHale-Boston-Celtics-1-1024x674 After Game 7 of the NBA Finals outside of the Boston Garden on June 12, 1984, Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale celebrates the team’s NBA title in the locker room. | Getty Images/John Blanding/The Boston Globe

In the 1984 NBA Finals, the Celtics and Lakers faced battle. The Celtics won the championship in 1981, and the Lakers won it in 1982. In the 1980s, the teams met three times for the title, with the first match taking place in 1984. After finishing with the best record in the league at 62-20, Boston had homecourt advantage.

The Lakers soon erased that lead, defeating the Celtics 115-109 in the Boston Garden. Boston also struggled in Game 2. The Celtics would have been down 2-0 if it hadn’t been for a late steal by Gerald Henderson with his side down by two points. Henderson’s steal, though, pushed the game to overtime, where the Celtics won 124-121.

In Game 3, the Lakers defeated Boston 137-104. Bird slammed his teammates for being “soft” after the game.

Last year, on the Locked On Celtics podcast, Ainge remarked, “I recall Larry expressing something to the media about how soft the team is.” “However, our performance in Game 3 in Los Angeles embarrassed and humiliated every single individual who saw that film.”

In Game 4, Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis, with Danny Ainge playing a minor part in the hard foul.

Today is 36 years ago…

Game 4 of the NBA Finals

Kurt Rambis gets a brutal clothesline from Kevin McHale.

At the Forum, the Celtics (+6.5) defeated the Lakers 129-125.

@RexChapman “No infants permitted”

June 6, 2020 — The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ)

In Game 4, the Celtics players promised to play with greater vigor. Ainge even spoke to McHale before the game about being a bit more physical in his play.

“After being blasted out in Game 1, we were very fortunate to win Game 2,” Ainge said. “We’re maybe a 1% chance of winning that game, and then we get smashed again in Game 3 and it’s just a dunk fest.

“I remember Kevin saying, ‘We’ve got to take people out.’ We were heading out to stretch for practice the following day, and Kevin said, ‘We’ve got to take guys out.’ We need to make some tough fouls.’ ‘Kevin, I get booed in every stadium because I take harsh fouls,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you smack someone in the face once or twice?’

McHale listened to Ainge’s suggestion. Rambis was leveled by McHale with a forearm to the neck after receiving a pass from James Worthy on a fast break, with the Lakers leading 76-70. The seats on the benches had all been taken. As the officials worked out the kinks, the game came to a halt.

The play sparked a comeback by the Celtics, who won 129-125 in another overtime thriller. Both teams were tied at two games each when they returned to Boston.

Kevin McHale’s foul was dubbed “inspiring” by Ainge.

The Lakers had dominated play throughout the series until McHale leveled Rambis. McHale’s harsh foul on Rambis, whether intentional or not, resurrected the Celtics. McHale, according to Ainge, was the perfect guy to light the fuse.

“In my view, the fact that Kevin was the one who brought Rambis down with a clothesline was much more thrilling than if Larry had done it,” Ainge remarked. “And for his teammates, the fact that Kevin had done it was thrilling.

“Seeing Kevin and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s what we’re talking about,’ was an inspiring play for us. You’ve spoken the talk and now you’ve walked the walk.’ That was fantastic. That was one of my all-time favorite Kevin performances.”

Boston won Game 5 at home, then dropped Game 6 on the road before winning Game 7 at home, 111-102. The Celtics would not have a championship banner from 1984 if not for Henderson’s theft and McHale’s hard foul, both of which were aided by Ainge.

Larry Bird’s Mother Was a Huge Supporter of Her Son’s Rival

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