9.24.2008

1981-82 C's Coast in Opener

1981-82 Boston Celtics

The game, after all, was hardly the raison d'etre for the gathering. The fans had come to see rings distributed, another flag raised and simply to participate in a local sort of semi-religious rite. But the game wasn't bad, not bad at all.

It was, in fact, entirely appropriate. The NBA couldn't have guaranteed the success of the occasion any better, providing the defending world champions with a weak team, incapable of fighting back once trouble brewed. And so another NBA season opened here in the manner of many another in the past: Boston 124, Washington 100.

The competition had been eliminated by halftime, the Celtics breaking open the game with 31-18 second-quarter spread, included in which was one devastating 23-2 blast. The closest the Bullets could come thereafter was 14 (97-83), and when that occured, with 10:42 remaining, Bill Fitch did a rather interesting thing. In effect he replaced Larry Bird, acclaimed by emcee Johnny Most at the ring ceremony beforehand as "All-Time, All-Universe," with Eric Fernsten, who is All-Skyline High Alumni. And the Celtics benefitted.

Joining Eric at the time as subs were Cedric Maxwell, and the game's obvious key perforer, Robert Parish, and along with Terry (Folk Hero) Duerod and Gerry Henderson they stopped the Bullet advance, boosting the lead back to 20 (104-84) in less than two minutes.

Parish was absolutely as good as he's ever been, doing a monster imitation underneath that was nearly frightening. The rest of the cast performed admirably, especially Bird (20), Maxwell (17) and Kevin McHale. But this evening belonged to Parish, Duerod (would you believe a retreating rejection right onto Causeway Street of a Don Collins fast break shot?) and to the Ghost of Championships Past, who clearly presided over the occasion from the time the doors were opened.

A team heavily populated by so-called second-stringers simply assaulted the Bullets in the second period, giving the Celtics a commanding 62-43 lead at the half.

Washington had stayed in the game through 33-31, Boston, when things gradually got out of its control. It was the contributions of such Boston bench men as Kevin McHale, Gerry Henderson and rookie Charles Bradley that turned the game around. Along with Rick Robey and a fellow named Bird, the home team whacked the Bullets with a 23-3 spurt to create a whopping 56-34 spread.

Ironically, the best player on the floor during the first half had nothing to do with the big blast. But Robert Parish had done everything else, and it was he who was responsible for the slight Boston edge prior to the blowout period.

When Parish went out for a breather with 7:52 left in the half, he took 12 points (5-for-5 shooting), 10 rebounds, two blocks, several intimidated shots and a gang of pleasant fan memories to the bench with him.

Robert had been particularly inspiring in a first-period stretch that had rescued the Celtics from a 19-16 deficit and provided them with a 27-21 lead. From 19-19 to 27-21, in fact, the other nine men were mere supporting players to Parish's lead role in "The Beast That Ate North Station."

And that's only the mildest of hyperbole. After rebounding strongly, he was fouled and he sank both. 21-19. A Parish out-front steal and all-the-way rambling stuff made it 23-19. A Parish 15-footer made it 25-21. Parish switched out on Spencer Haywood and blocked his pass to launch a fast break finished off by - you guessed it - Parish. This was season-highlight film stuff.

The second-quarter massacre featured some strong Celtic team defense and some jittery Washington play, as befit an occasion on which they were little more than uninvited guests to a Boston self-coronation.

One of the interesting aspects of the run was the frantic play of young Bradley, whose first seven minutes revealed him to be a thoroughly frightened young man, and whose last five revealed him to be a very talented one. Bradley air-balled both a leaner and a corner jumper before he got loose, recording his first NBA basket on a banked, low-post turnaround from the left at 3:43 (51-33), and his second on a see-ya-later lefthanded bolt to the hoop for a three-point play at 3:16. 54-34.

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