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The great Bill Russell (Stay well Bill - we need you) did it! So did Larry Bird!

After a 33-point, 137-104, blowout loss to the Lakers in Game Three of the 1984 NBA Finals, Larry Bird accused his team of playing like sissies and playing without heart. In Game Four, Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis, and Boston won the contest and the Finals series to win the Championship. Bird had 29 points and 21 rebounds in that Game Four. Because of Larry's comments about the team playing with no heart, Danny Ainge came prepared with a stethoscope prior to Game Seven. He may need to produce it again.

Prior to the seventh game of a tough 1969 Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Bill Russell saw the premature-celebratory balloons in the Los Angeles arena rafters and informed Jerry West that "those f###ing balloons are staying up there!" Russ pumped up his teammates, and the balloons never fell. The Boston Celtics took home the trophy in Russ' last season as a team member.

So here's the question? After the 116-86 massacre of the Celtics by Cleveland, which team member will take charge and light a fire under his teammates to get them focused? Al Horford is the unofficial Captain and veteran leader of the team but he does his job effectively, but quietly. But Al is still capable getting his guys fired up and having an exceptional game at the same time.

Jayson Tatum is still a rookie, after all, and Greg Monroe is new to the team. Second-year man, Jaylen Brown, has become much more dominant on the court but also has a quiet demeanor.

Marcus Morris is another veteran but his lack of team play would not lend itself to igniting teammates. Both Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are capable to lighting the fuse, and Aron Baynes is also in that mix.

Words alone won't get it done. Words and action will do it. One member needs to light the fire prior to the game and fan the flames once the game begins. Who will it be? Leaders are spawned under such conditions.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Russell photo via NBA.com
Bird photo via Peter Southwick/Associated Press

Tom Lane 5/20/2018 12:11:00 PM Edit
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