4.01.2008

Walton Dominates in 60th Win for 86 Cs

1986 Celtics Basketball--Season of the Superlative

Brace yourself for another borderline hyperbolic (but only borderline) declaration.

Are you ready?

All right, then:

What other team could replace a six-time All-Star center with a man we shall shamelessly refer to as The Greatest Backup Center In The Recorded History of Mankind? The answer, of course, is none. There remains but one Bill Walton to a century, and the Celtics have him.

As the Celtics rolled to consecutive triumph No. 10, season triumph No. 60, consecutive home-court triumph No. 26, consecutive Boston Garden triumph No. 23 and consecutive home blowout of a bottom-rung Eastern Conference play-off contender No. 4, Walton simply took over last night's game as if it were a Helix High intrasquad scrimmage, circa 1970.

You can say without fear of contradiction from any among the 255th consecutive Garden sellout crowd of 14,890 that Walton decided the game before it was 20 seconds old. He got the tap from Manute Bol, ran downcourt, set up shop on the lower left box, rolled into the lane, took a pass from Dennis Johnson, stuck in a jump hook . . . and after that, you could fill in the blanks. A little less than two hours later, the Celtics had completed a 116-97 destruction of the Washington Bullets, but if you had checked out midway through the first quarter, you wouldn't have missed anything essential. This is not to say you wouldn't have missed a few nice plays, but you wouldn't have missed anything crucial to determining the outcome. Bill Walton took care of that very, very quickly.

In case you missed it, Walton received his first Boston start because Robert Parish was nursing a back injury. The Big Redhead certainly didn't squander his opportunity, scoring a season-high 20 points, hauling in 12 rebounds and making more of those 11 O'Clock News highlight plays that have brightened this Celtic season. "He is one of the greatest players ever when healthy," said Washington coach Kevin Loughery, "and right now he's as healthy as he's been in a long time. He put on a show tonight, and it looks like he really enjoys playing again."

By the time K.C. Jones gave Walton his first rest at the 1:42 mark of the first period, he already had 13 points (a figure he had exceeded only eight times this season) and six rebounds. He had driven Bol from the game, the big man being simply overmatched defensively and on the boards. The Celtics, meanwhile, had led by such early scores as 7-0, 15-8 and 26-14 (this on the first of two Danny Ainge three-pointers), and these early scores were declarations of superiority, not suggestions of possible strength.

There was neither a tie nor a lead change in the game as the Celtics led comfortably at the checkpoints (35-20, 61-48 and 89-75) before stretching the advantage to as many as 25 (110-85 on a Sam Vincent jumper with 4:35 left).

Walton's support came from the such people as Larry Bird (27, despite a rare sub-.500 shooting night at 11 for 23), Johnson (12 points, 9 assists), Kevin McHale (a casual 14) and Jerry Sichting, who rebounded from a scoreless game against Milwaukee to do his jump-shooting thing (5 for 6, 11 points).

Against this might, the Bullets offered only the long-range bombing of Jeff Malone (18) and the surprising scrap of veteran Dan Roundfield (17 points, 9 rebounds). They proved to be no different than most recent Celtics opponents, in that they were totally incapable of rotating well enough defensively out of a double team to disrupt Boston's celebrated passing game. And they were lucky, because the Celtics handled the ball very sloppily on the fast break, making a majority of their 13 turnovers in the open floor.

"They (the Celtics) are an excellent team," said Loughery. "They're also very entertaining."

And K.C. showed his own theatrical sense, responding to a dazzling fourth- period behind-the-back bounce pass from Walton to Scott Wedman (who made the layup) by immediately sending in Greg Kite so that Walton could take a proper bow while the crowd was still aflutter.

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