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NBA Playoffs : Celtics Probably Won't Have McHale in Opener Against Bucks

May 05, 1987|From Times Wire Services

Kevin McHale was watching his teammates practice Monday at Boston Garden, when Boston Celtics' owner Donald Gaston walked by.

"How you doin'?" McHale said, extending his hand.

Responded Gaston: "How are you doin'?"

Gaston isn't the only person asking that question. The answer could be a factor in whether Boston becomes the first team in 18 years to win consecutive NBA titles.

Although the Celtics have not ruled McHale out of tonight's opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Milwaukee Bucks at Boston, no one is particularly optimistic.

"Won't know until tomorrow," Celtic Coach K.C. Jones said. "He wasn't out here even in the three-man weave (practice drill), so that indicates to me he's not really ready to go."

He sprained his ankle April 26 in the second game of Boston's opening-round series against Chicago. Last Friday, the Celtics announced McHale also has a hairline fracture of a bone on top of his right foot. He thinks it may have happened March 11, as he pulled his foot away from a Phoenix Sun player who was stepping on it.

"I'll be surprised if he doesn't play," Buck Coach Don Nelson said. "If he doesn't, there'll be another good player in his place."

Fred Roberts, a faster runner than McHale, probably would replace him. If that happens, the Celtics probably will rely more on the fast break and less on a low-post attack. It also probably would mean more shots for the remaining four starters.

Jones has said he doesn't want to use McHale if it means he will have to miss the next game in the best-of-seven series, scheduled for Wednesday. The scene shifts to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4 Friday night and Sunday.

"It doesn't look like he's going to play," Larry Bird said, "but we'll be all right. We've played without him before. On defense, we'll be OK if we're active and move and cover up for each other. One problem is that they are so deep, and we've got to stop their break."

The Atlanta Hawks will try to go back to Dominique Wilkins tonight at Atlanta in an effort to get back into their semifinal series with the Detroit Pistons.

Wilkins scored 21 points in Sunday's 112-111 loss to the Pistons in the first game of the series. He was 7 for 18 from the field, and had only two baskets in the second half.

"I'd really have to go back and look at the film to see if the ball got into Dominique's hands, and where on the court," Atlanta Coach Mike Fratello said. "Whatever he's done, it's been good enough for us to win 57 (regular-season) games and three more in the playoffs."

Wilkins thought he was fouled on his missed shot in the final seconds Sunday.

Detroit's Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman were double-teaming Wilkins on the play.

"I thought it was a good shot, but I thought I got bumped after I made my fake, and I think that's why it went too hard off the glass," Wilkins said.

The Hawks also will have to do a better job defensively on Isiah Thomas, who scored 30 points Sunday.

"He's got the ball 90% of the time," Atlanta's Randy Wittman said. "We've got to do a better job on him."

The Houston Rockets will try to stop Dale Ellis tonight, something they could not do Saturday.

Ellis scored 34 points, including a three-point shot with 14 seconds left in overtime to lead the Seattle SuperSonics to a 111-106 victory in their series opener at Houston.

Later, Ellis and teammate Kevin Williams were arrested after an incident at a Houston nightclub. Both players will be available for Game 2 tonight.

"(Ellis) still has his jumper," said Robert Reid, who tried to guard Ellis on Saturday. "He'll block it from his mind. You have to separate what happens on the court and off the court."

Ellis scored 43 and 32 points in first-round victories to help eliminate the Dallas Mavericks.

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