Aw, it wasn't even any fun.
Like, how you can the Celtics derive any satisfaction from beating a Chicago team that lacks Michael Jordan, Dave Corzine, Jawaan Oldham and, now, Orlando (Team Player) Woolridge? They could get pumped up just as easily by beating Colgate. At the Garden.
So the Celtics did what they had to do last night, and no more. They emerged from the locker room at halftime a bit embarrassed. The score was tied at 52, and the Celtics were irritated over the Bulls' apparent refusal to accept their fate. That being the case, the men in Green proceeded to demonstrate what inside defense, power rebounding, outlet passing, lane- filling and just plain championship basketball were all about, blowing out the Bulls by a 29-16 third-quarter score and setting the tone for a 106-94 dispatch of the home squad.
The Celtics had to win the game twice. They appeared to be in control during the second quarter, leading by a 41-26 score with 8:22 left following Bill Walton's third successful back-door feed of the quarter to a cutting Larry Bird. At this point, the undermanned Bulls -- coach Stan Albeck started the game with nine healthy players and finished with eight when Gene Banks sustained an eye injury -- demonstrated why Bird, among others, has labled them "the hardest-playing team in the league." Chicago spat in the monster's eye, ripping off a 14-2 run to close within three, and eventually taking a brief lead at 52-51 on a John Paxson jumper with 19 seconds to go.
A Dennis Johnson free throw with five seconds left saved the Celtics from the shame of a halftime deficit against a team that employed two CBA refugess and a Canadian (an ECAC North Atlantic Canadian, no less) among its nine players.
But the Albeckians are no respecters of standings or tradition these days. Kids such as Charles Oakley (a mighty rookie is he) and Sidney Green can play, and hungry players such as Michael Holton and Paxson can scrap, and when the Celtics began to Bogart a bit (this being Chicago, why not use a Dennis Eckersley phrase?) with careless passes and too-quick jumpers, the Bulls were not too proud to exploit Boston's largesse.
K.C. Jones issued no blistering halftime remarks. "I just told them we had lost a 15-point lead and that we had to start playing some defense," explained K.C. "I wasn't angry at them. I had made a boo-boo myself, not calling a timeout when it went from 15 to nine and instead waiting until it was down to five. You're never too old to learn from your mistakes."
Two baskets from the aggressive (we're talking young Joe Frazier aggressive) Oakley kept the Bulls ahead by four at 56-52 when Boston began to assert itself behind the defensive pressure of Johnson and Danny Ainge out front and the backline intimidation of Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
Parish, who scored 14 of his 18 in the pivotal third quarter, received the tying honors when he took a touch pass from Bird and dunked one on the break. That made it 58-all, and when The Chief yanked down one of his 11 rebounds on the next Chicago possession, he outletted to Johnson, who fed ahead to McHale (23) for a sneakaway dunk.
Albeck tried to stop it with a 20-second timeout, but it did no good, for DJ sent back a George Gervin jumper and raced down to score on another fast break.
Chicago's absolute last hope to remain afloat disappeared with 5:50 remaining in the third period when Oakley picked up his fourth foul. It was 63-60 after a McHale free throw, and as soon as Oakley sat down, Chicago abdicated the boards. The next two Boston baskets were taking-candy-from-a- bambino follow-ups by McHale and Parish, and with that, the Celtics were off on a prolonged stretch of clinical basketball that would carry the lead to as many as 21 (103-82) in the fourth period.