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NBA Finals find spot for Walton


You might have to cup your ears or jack up the volume on your TV set over the next few nights to hear Marv Albert's trademark "Yesss" during NBC's coverage of the NBA championship series.

Part of that is because the Marvelous One is suffering the effects of a sore throat. The other part is that Albert and his two analyst partners, Matt Guokas and Bill Walton, have had to scream to the top of their lungs to be heard over the relentless din of the Orlando Arena.

"I used to think that Cleveland, when the Cavaliers played at the old Coliseum, or Chicago Stadium were the loudest, but I've never heard it as loud as it is here," Albert said yesterday from Orlando. "At times, I've been tempted to introduce the P.A. announcer as part of our crew."

Said Walton: "Anything that prevents coaches from yelling at players, I'm in favor of, but I don't think you should play the P.A. [music] during play. It sounds like you're in a bass drum."

Walton, whose star appears to be on the ascent with NBC executives, worked the Western Conference series with Greg Gumbel and Steve Jones, and has been plugged into the format for this round, forcing Albert and Guokas to make an adjustment.

"We all have to pull back. It's more conversational, more opinionated with Matt and Bill," said Albert. "It's more of a succinct call on my part, but I've done it so many times over the years. When Mike Fratello was with us, Magic Johnson joined us, and it worked well. I like it. It's a matter of Matt and Bill being unselfish and splitting replays."

Wednesday's series opener did a 16.3 rating and 27 share of the national audience in the 33-market overnight survey, meaning nearly 1.5 million more homes watched this year's first game than last year's opener between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks.

Game 2 of the series takes place tonight in Orlando at 9, before the series shifts to Houston for Game 3's telecast Sunday at 7 p.m.

Hooves and links

Yet another Triple Crown chase comes to a close tomorrow with the 127th running of the Belmont Stakes from New York (Channel 2, 4:30 p.m.). Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch and Timber Country, who captured the Preakness here three weeks ago, are expected to lead the field.

Meanwhile, just down the road at Potomac, CBS (Channel 13, tomorrow, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.) sends third- and final-round coverage of the Kemper Open, the last tournament before next week's U.S. Open, from the TPC course at Avenel.

HTS doings

Besides the normal Orioles fare Sunday, Home Team Sports serves up an eclectic mix of programming this weekend, beginning with two quarterfinal games from the rugby World Cup from South Africa. Tomorrow at 7 a.m., the French team meets Ireland, with a delayed broadcast of the South Africa-Western Samoa match at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

Finally, HTS will have an exhibition game, pitting the Colorado Silver Bullets women's baseball team against a squad of Navy all-stars from Washington's RFK Stadium at 7:30 Sunday evening.

Radio waves

One of the area's more interesting talk shows, "SportsRap," celebrates its second anniversary at 7 tonight on WEAA (88.9 FM), with host Lamont Germany and co-hosts Renard Stubbs and Robyn Marks.

Meanwhile, WWLG (1360 AM) adds another piece of sports programming with tomorrow night's debut of "Pro Wrestling II" at 8 p.m. The weekly, two-hour show will be hosted by Jerry Moshenberg and Paige Rose, with a "mystery third co-host," according to a publicity release. Bob Backlund is scheduled as a guest.

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