1981-82 Boston Celtics
What did it all mean, this not-as-close-as-it-seems 104-88 exhibition triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks?
Are the Celtics this ready for the start of the season? Are the Bucks going to be a Central Division division kingpin, or are they going to apply for admission to the Continental Basketball Assn., as their shoddy play in this game would indicate?
Bill Fitch was playing it cool, anyway. "It was a typical exhibition game in which one team was more ready to play than the other," he said. "There was a little bit of the Sunday night Portland-Boston game (a similar 114-99 Trail Blazer blowout) in this one."
These were not the Bucks who came within one point of defeating the 76ers in a tough seven-game series last spring. Marques Johnson is still home in Los Angeles seeking a new contract. Junior Bridgeman, the smooth swingman, was nursing a knee injury sustained last Sunday evening. Quinn Buckner was playing only his second game since being hit with an Achilles tendon problem. Bob Lanier was gingerly testing his perpetually ailing knees. Among the remaining regulars, only Mickey Johnson (15 points, 8 rebounds) performed in a professional manner.
"There was nothing good out there," admitted Don Nelson. "The guys who had been carrying us (such as Brian Winters, who had 34 points on Sunday against Chicago), and who we have been leaning on, really had bad nights tonight. And it hurts if you don't have anybody to guard Bird."
Ah, yes, Larry Bird. Playing only the first half, he had 19 points and 8 rebounds and looked like, well, Larry Bird. He then watched as Kevin McHale (18 points, 10 rebounds and 8-for-11 shooting) and Rick Robey (12 points on a rather startling variety of shots from inside and out) feasted on Nellie's young frontcourt people.
Milwaukee led but once, at 21-20, but the Celtics took control at the outset of the second quarter and were never in jeopardy thereafter. It was 58-45 at the half, and the quintet of Robey, McHale, Cedric Maxwell, Tiny Archibald and rookie Charles Bradley obliterated the Bucks in the third quarter, boosting the lead to 91-65. The margin peaked at 29 (100-71) on a jumper by Jersey City native Jim Brandon, who had a hearty cheering section located behind the basket.