He was lurking deep in the offensive bulrushes for the entire series. The attention had been focused on just about everybody else.Get Larry Bird shots, get Robert Parish shots, get something out of Kevin McHale, hope those guards deposit all those open jumpers . . . nobody ever mentioned the possibility of getting the ball in deep to Cedric Maxwell.
But when the call came, ooohhh, was he ready. Start thinking about game- ball citations and you start thinking about Maxwell, whose 24 points (17 in the first half), 8 rebounds and 8 assists were crucial as the Celtics won championship No. 15, 111-102, over the Lakers last night.
"Max was ready," related assistant coach Chris Ford. "Max said before the game - really, after the sixth game - Just ride my shoulders, guys.' He was really determined. He wanted the ball."
His first attempt to score was a negated basket on which Darel Garretson called an offensive foul. That might have been the last bad thing to happen to him. It was evident from the start that he would be an integral part of the Celtics' offense. It was almost like the early days of the Maxwell career, when he parlayed his tremendous inside agility into many big scoring nights.
By halftime, Max had sunk 11 of 13 free-throw attempts. The Lakers appeared confused, as if they had forgotten how dexterous Maxwell is inside.
"He got off early tonight," said LA assistant coach Dave Wohl. "Sometimes when a player hits a couple and gets a few free throws he gets his confidence up. Then we made it easier with reaching fouls. But you've got to credit Cedric Maxwell. We were maybe a little slow in our double-teaming, and he found the creases."
It was a vintage Maxwell performance, in that, mixed in with his scoring, was some superb offensive rebounding (five of his eight on the offensive end) and some intelligent passing. Max long ago established himself as the master of the inside-out pass to the wing man, and this skill was shown in the third period when he kept feeding Gerald Henderson for open jump shots. Max even put a little whipped cream on his sundae by swishing his first and only set shot attempt of the series in the third period, when the Celtics were singeing the LA inside double-teams for eight perimeter jumpers.
So easily were the Celtics getting the ball inside to Maxwell during the first half that it was necessary to inquire if there had been some technical adjustments made prior to the game. The answer was "No." It was just Maxwell conducting a post-graduate course in pivot play.
"He was pursuing the ball well," said Wohl. "He hadn't been doing that the entire series."
Added Boston assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers, "Max just seemed to have a little more freedom. He was just super aggressive down low tonight."
The Celtics constructed a 6-point (58-52) halftime lead due mainly to strong inside work that produced a plethora of free throws, plus some typical grinding offensive board work. In the entire first half, the Celtics had three perimeter field goals, in addition to one Parish post-up turnaround jumper.
"We felt we had to be more patient about going to our strengths," pointed out Rodgers. "We stopped making the extra pass in the sixth game, but tonight we made it again. Throughout this series we continued to short-list'; that is, we reduced the number of plays we would run. In the beginning of the series we were running about 10 plays. Tonight it was down to four or five, and getting it inside was a first-half priority."
Maxwell had taken home the 1981 final series MVP prize with a number of displays like this one. But in this series he simply hadn't been called upon to do much more offensively than to hang around waiting for a second shot. The Celtics obviously realized he was still capable of more involvement.
"The Lakers were so worried about stopping Larry (Bird)," said Danny Ainge, "that Max had some great openings. We all know how great he can be, and tonight he rose to the occasion."
"Give him all his credit," concluded LA assistant Bill Bertka. "He was taking it to the hoop and we were fouling him. He was able to deliver."
But, hey, it's not like there isn't some precedent. Cedric Maxwell is not exactly a mystery man to Boston Celtic opponents.