9.30.2008

Bird, McHale, and Tiny Disappoint

1981-82 Boston Celtics

Of pomp, circumstance, and Moncrief

'Twas a roller-coaster first weekend, at best, for the Celtics . After enjoying the fruits of last year's labors in a well-run ceremony, Boston rewarded an emotional crowd with an Opening Night drubbing of the Bullets Friday night. But they sank into Lake Michigan the following night, done in by the jump shots of Brian Winters and the all-around skill of Sidney Moncrief, as intriguing a piece of the NBA chessboard as exists in the league.

Milwaukee is dealing with the well-publicized Marques Johnson holdout (he is reportedly signable for $1.5 million a year), not to mention a knee injury that has sidelined the estimable Junior Bridgeman for two weeks. The Bucks had lost their opener to Detroit after taking a 14-point lead in the first quarter. But 24 hours later, on their own court and before their own adoring, ever-so-polite crowd, they were a very nice basketball team indeed.

The Celtics, meanwhile, were a bad defensive team in Milwaukee. True, Brian Winters had a sensational shooting night (unless you consider 13 for 17 routine). But something more could have been done with Moncrief (29 points) and Quinn Buckner (22, on 9-for-11 shooting).

"I'm not concerned with offense," Bill Fitch said. "That will take care of itself. But when a team thinks it can score every time downcourt (the Bucks were 5 for 5 to open the fourth quarter), it develops an attitude that it can't lose the game. I don't care if we scored 80 points. We've got to play better defense."

The rebounding was none too spectacular, either, and rebounding is an adjunct of defense. Robert Parish only had three rebounds, and Larry Bird, who had 12, was even seen sneaking away for a potential basket a few times in lieu of assaulting the boards.

Meanwhile, Tiny Archibald (he's 33, remember) devoted scant attention to defense, Bird was worked over a bit and Kevin McHale spent a little too much time looking for blocks. The Celtics failed to take a single charge all evening, which is significant.

Anyway, the world champions are 1-1, and they have three games in four nights this week. They play host to the Bulls Wednesday night, then the Pacers Friday. On Saturday the Celtics will head to Pontiac, Mich., for their first encounter with the Pistons and Isiah Thomas, who is off to a tremendous start.

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