Pass the Hefty trash can liners. This night at the Garden might have been better spent standing in line to buy a Megabucks ticket.
Celtics general manager Jan Volk didn't stalk the sidelines hurling verbal abuse at Cleveland heap Lonnie Shelton. Robert Parish didn't throw any roundhouse rights. There were no splintered teeth and no controversial calls. The Garden noise level was equal to that at Widener Library.
It was, quite simply, a methodical 126-95 Celtic dismantling of the 15-21 Cleveland Cavaliers. It was Boston's largest victory margin of the season, and the Hoosier duo of Larry Bird (25 points, 7 assists) and Jerry Sichting provided a few magic moments, but it was a game with no suspense and little fire.
"I don't think we did very many good things," said Cavs coach George Karl. "We were lethargic . . . the whole game seemed to have a lack of intensity."
"They seemed to be in a daze," noted Parish (22 points).
The Cavaliers haven't won here since the Red Sox-Yankees play-off game of 1978, and you knew Boston wasn't going to drop one at home after a disappointing loss in the Michigan tundra Tuesday night. The Celts are 15-1 at the Garden.
Bird (11 for 20) came out firing, and if we are to look at the BIG PICTURE, a game like this might indicate that things are going to get better for the hungry-hearted forward. He appears less troubled by his ailing back. He's played like the Bird of the past two seasons since the Christmas Day humbling in New York, and hit 6 of 10 shots as Boston bolted to a 12-point lead in the first period last night.
"In Cleveland, it seemed like his back was hurting and he had trouble going to the basket," said Karl. "Tonight he was great."
Bird opened the scoring with a bomb from out top. That established the tone for the entire game. The Celts never trailed.
Sichting started in place of Danny Ainge (ankle) and hit all six of his shots in the first half. Matched against the equally diminutive John Bagley (who had a horrible game), Sichting scored four points and helped force six early Cleveland turnovers. Boston led, 23-13, when Sam Vincent replaced Sichting.
K.C. Jones elected to keep Bill Walton on the bench with Ainge. Walton had a tooth pulled and some bridge work done yesterday afternoon. Greg Kite replaced Parish at the end of the first. Rick Carlisle also made a rare first- quarter appearance. We would see plenty of Kite and Carlisle in the final 12 minutes.
Bird closed the first quarter with three pretty rainbows from out top, and Boston led by 11 after one. Cleveland made only seven of 18 shots in the period.
The Cavs cut it to six a couple of times in the second quarter, but Sichting returned and drained four straight jumpers.
"We got our transition game going, and I get a lot of my shots in the transition," said Sichting. "We need Danny, but when somebody's hurt, the next guy has got to come in and do it."
Kevin McHale (24 points, 13 rebounds) finished the first-half scoring with a pair of free throws, and Boston led, 64-45, at intermission. World B. Free (10 points) shot 3 for 11 in the first two quarters, and the usually forceful Roy Hinson (10 points, 3 rebounds) was invisible.
Bird opened the second half with another mortar from out top, and the Celts led by 21. He fired a one-hander off the glass to make it 75-55 midway through the third, and later fed McHale for an easy two that gave Boston a 25-point lead. He hit a three-pointer from the left corner before the third quarter ended. It was 89-69 with 1:20 left in the third when Bird sat down for good.
The Celtics led, 95-71, at the end of three, and Jones went with a quintet of Carlisle, Vincent, Kite, Wedman and David Thirdkill at the start of the fourth period. Karl countered with his motley crew, and the Garden started emptying.
An embarrassed Kite fouled out (in only 12 minutes of play) with 8:27 left. That forced Parish to return for mop-up duty, but maybe the Chief had it coming. Parish had taken an early shower Tuesday in Pontiac after swinging at Bill Laimbeer.
The Celts finished the game with five guards on the floor (if you count Thirdkill and Wedman, who have played backcourt in the NBA). It was Cleveland's 20th consecutive defeat in Boston.