The Green Moves to 35-8 After Beating Washington
You've read this story before: There's a sold-out dance hall and a team on the rise trying to make its name and impress hometown skeptics with a victory over the Boston Celtics . Then Larry Bird and Co. strut into town, break more hearts than Cybill Shepherd and fly home with another notch in the sweatband.
The story line has been played out in Atlanta, Ga., and East Rutherford, N.J., already this year. Last night the site was Landover, Md., as the Celts turned back the heretofore high-flying Washington Bullets, 97-88, before 19,123 at the Capital Centre.
It was Boston's 10th straight victory, and perhaps it is time we started paying attention to The Streak. Boston's win skein is the longest in the NBA this season and ties the fourth-longest of the Bird era (the Celts won 18 straight in 1981).
Friday in Washington was much like Thursday in Chicago and every other day in every other city since Christmas. For a full 48 minutes of court time, there was a sense of inevitability. One always gets the feeling that the Celts are never in danger and will ultimately prevail.
Unimpressed by 7-foot-7-inch Manute Bol, a healthy Jeff Ruland, All-Star Jeff Malone and conehead Leon Wood, the Celts blunted the Bullets. Scott Wedman (starting his fourth straight in place of Kevin McHale) hit 11 of 17 floor shots and scored a season-high 24 points with 9 rebounds. Wedman had 17 points at halftime.
"We wished McHale was back playing the way Wedman was shooting in the first half," said Ruland.
Meanwhile, Robert Parish again devoured the backboards (14 rebounds), and the ubiquitous Bird (14 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks) did everything else.
"It all starts with Larry Bird," said Wedman. "Larry Bird brings a winning attitude to this team like nothing I've ever seen."
The Celts trailed only once -- 33-32 in the second period. Boston led, 26-18, after one, 51-46 at halftime, and stretched it to 75-64 at the end of three. The lead swelled to 21 midway through the final period.
Wedman drained his first four jumpers as the Celts bolted to a 12-4 lead. Bullets coach Gene Shue responded by inserting Darren (Make My) Daye and Ruland. Daye took over on Wedman.
"We talked about Wedman's outside shooting and how we had to go out and play him," groaned Shue. "Then we didn't do it."
Wearing a Slick Watts headband on his bald dome, Wood came in and missed his first two shots. Boston held a 12-3 rebounding advantage at that juncture, and Bol was pulled. A jumper by Bird made it 22-10. Cliff Robinson helped the Bullets claw back to within eight at the end of one.
Ruland led a flurry at the start of the second as the Bullets closed the gap to three. Then Manute returned and swatted consecutive shots by Sam Vincent and David Thirdkill. Wood followed with a three-pointer, and it was 30-30. Wood's next three-pointer gave Washington its only lead. Let's not hear any more stories about how great Wood (21 points on 20 shots) is. He heaved his three-pointer while a grumbling Ruland was under the basket being guarded by 6-1 Jerry Sichting.
Jones reinstated his starters, and Wedman put the Celts back on top with a three-pointer. Boston led by five at intermission.
The Bullets trimmed it to three a couple of times early in the third, but Bird, Parish and Danny Ainge (nine assists) soon had the lead back in double figures. Parish snatched six rebounds in the third period. Brutal Bullet shooting (8 for 22) helped the Celts cruise to an 11-point lead at the end of three.
K.C. went with the shock troops at the start of the fourth, and a pair of Rick Carlisle jumpers made it 79-64. A three-point play by Bill Walton with 8:17 remaining made it 86-67. Then Sichting kicked off garbage time with a bomb which pushed Boston's lead to 21 and started the exodus back to our nation's capital.
The Bullets shot 41 percent and totaled a pitiful 16 assists. Bol finished with seven blocks, seven points and six rebounds in 31 minutes, but was never a factor.
Ruland's summation: "It was disgusting."
Shue credited Boston: "The Celtics run basic plays and they make them work. The addition of Bill Walton is a major improvement. When they make substitutions, there's no weakness."