DA GREEN MOVES TO 36-8
Playing on their creaky home floor, they trailed by hideous scores of 15-4, 29-10 and 47-26. They moved like five blocks from Stonehenge and made Seattle rookie Xavier McDaniel look like Elgin Baylor.
And through it all, there appeared little concern. Oh, there might have been a little grumbling in the upper deck, but the guys in green were composed and confident.
It was, therefore, no surprise when Boston's men at work crawled out of the gutter and took back the day from the Seattle SuperSonics. The amazing part of yesterday's story is that the Celtics can win a 114-101 decision after trailing by 21 and make it seem almost boring. This must be the way it works when a team wins 11 straight games.
"They did what the best team in basketball does," said Seattle coach Bernie Bickerstaff. "They played well and made open shots. You know they're coming, but you've got to answer."
The first 15 minutes were truly unique. The 36-8 Celtics, 21-1 at home and hoping to take a 13-game winning streak into the All-Star break, couldn't keep up with lowly (17-31) Seattle.
McDaniel (12 points in the first quarter) tap-danced on Scott Wedman for the first nine minutes, scoring from every possible angle. Meanwhile, old pal Gerald Henderson poured in 10 first-period points and the Sonics were flying. The Celts shot 41 percent, got outrebounded, 11-6, and committed seven turnovers in 12 minutes as Seattle burst to a 37-20 lead at the end of one.
"We weren't bad, we were totally ugly," said Celtic coach K.C. Jones.
"It can happen," said Dennis Johnson (24 points, seven assists). "Bad defense, no rebounds, turnovers, and taking a team very lightly. We're just lucky it happened early enough so that we could do something about it."
Larry Bird was on his way to a 4-for-17 shooting performance. Bird compensated (as usual) with 14 free throws, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals, but his early clanging didn't help the cause.
"We were brutal," summed Danny Ainge.
Boston was no better in the first three minutes of the second period. Two free throws by Al Wood made it 47-26 with 8:17 left in the half.
Jones had already used three full timeouts and a 20-second pause. Hopeful that the Celts could gain some ground before half time, he inserted Bird and Robert Parish.
Bird scored his only four field goals of the afternoon in a 3:34 stretch (yes, that's correct, he was 0 for 7 in the second half) as the Celts closed the gap to 63-51 by half time.
"K.C. didn't need to say much at the half after the way we played," said DJ. "We knew we had to get our game together."
There was a small manpower problem. Kevin McHale (sore Achilles' tendon) was in street clothes for the fifth straight game and Wedman had suffered a four-stitch cut inside his upper lip in the first half.
No problem. Wedman started the third quarter and hit two bombs and a fast- break layup as the Celtics ran off 10 straight after a Danny Vranes free throw. Seattle's lead was down to three points and there was again a sense of inevitability. Wedman scored 11 of his 15 points in the third period.
Henderson (20 points, seven assists) and the estimable Jack Sikma (20 points) tossed sandbags in front of the green wave, but with 1:03 left in the third, Jerry Sichting canned a transition jumper to give the Celtics their first lead (78-77) since 2-0.
It should be noted that Bird did a nice job on McDaniel during this stretch. The X-factor contributed only one field goal after his All-Star first half.
A quarter-closing 6-0 run gave Boston an 82-77 lead at the end of three. Seattle had five field goals and was outscored, 31-14, in the third quarter.
"The third quarter has been a problem for us all season long," said Sikma. "We've been very inconsistent. When they began to double-team down low, it caused us some problems. And once they started shooting from outside better, we were in trouble."
For all practical purposes, that was it. Boston pushed the lead to 13 with 8:45 left and shifted into cruise control. The Celtics made 12 of 13 free throws and Seattle turned it over six times in the sloppy final period.