Celtics Fall Flat Against Pacers, Drop to 13-3

Parish Hauls Down 21 Boards in 23 Minutes
1981-82 Boston Celtics


Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. Last night was clearly a "don't" for the Celtics, whose vaunted passing was atrocious.

Indiana ran the nice pick-and-roll plays. Indiana executed the nice inside-out pass combinations. Indiana showed some patience. The Pacers just missed several thousand layups (well, not quite), not to mention some open jumpers. The Pacers played a better basketball game, and, from that standpoint, deserved to win.

The Celtics played hard but spun their offensive wheels. In the first five minutes of the game the Celtics tried to run five times, and they failed five times, mainly through bad passing rather than bad shooting. They compounded this felony with some bad decisions in the half court, many of them made by Larry Bird.

Once, in the late stages of the game, he passed up a 15-foot shot, passing off to Chris Ford underneath. Even if Ford had caught the ball, he stood a good chance of having it rejected. The ball didn't get there, anyway.

They can all share the blame. Robert Parish - who really didn't play a good game, aside from hauling in 23 rebounds - lost the ball en route to the hoop on the game's opening possession, and this may have been an omen. Tiny Archibald didn't have his best night, either, but as coach Bill Fitch said, "He's had plenty of good ones."

Fitch on his first ejection of the 1981-82 campaign: "I keep saying each time I get ejected that this will be the last time I'm sitting in here (in the locker room). I've got to learn. You just can't win." . . . Parish's 23 rebounds included 21 in the first 23 minutes he was on the floor and represented the Celtics' high rebound effort of the season. But it's a long way from his career high of 32 . . . Pacer rookie Herb Williams played a strong game at both forward and center, scoring 12 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and making three rejections, one of which was a dramatic uh-uh of a Gerry Henderson lefthanded drive.

Cedric Maxwell played much of the first half with a piece of gauze inserted in his left nostril to stem some bleeding. "I actually had a bloody nose before I got to the arena," Max explained, "and then it started up again when the game got under way." . . . Boston posted 27 fast-break points to Indiana's 21, but the Celtics did it on 14-for-29 running, while the Pacers did it with 11-for-18 running that included 5-for-5 in the final period.

Bird Misses Desperation Three

Larry Bird's desperation three-point leaner banked off the glass, hit the basket, bounced back up, hung on the rim and finally fell off. Thus was Indiana's 90-87 triumph over the Celtics before 12,634 delighted patrons at the Market Square Arena last night was preserved.

Boston had regained the ball with five seconds left when a double-team on an in-bounds resulted in a violation. Indiana had been in control of its own destiny since a tough, flying bank shot in the lane by Don Buse had given the hustling Pacers the 90-87 lead with 45 seconds to play. That basket was in response to a penetration-through-traffic dunk by Kevin McHale 10 seconds earlier, the big kid taking a nice Tiny Archibald feed.

Boston had enough chances to put the Pacers away, but its inability to sustain offense at any point finally brought them down. Leading by 70-63 with 1:40 remaining in the third period, the Celtics surrendered six straight points to allow the Pacers back before the period's end. In possession of an 82-80 lead with 5:05 left, the Celtics went a disastrous 3:26 without scoring, fortunately falling behind by only four points.

The game was an artistic disaster from start to finish, and Celtics coach Bill Fitch picked a good night to get himself ejected for the first time this year. He was bounced by Jake O'Donnell with 6:07 left in Period 3 and his team trailing by a 57-53 score.

The loss snapped a Celtics' victory string at five; now, over the last two years, their record against Indiana is 4-4.

One of the key players for the Pacers was willowy Louis Orr, whose 14 points included six straight in the fourth period when the Pacers really needed a lift: He took them from a 74-72 deficit to a 78-74 lead.

There being plenty of rebounds to be had in this poor-shooting affair, it should come as no surprise that Robert Parish had a season-high 22 rebounds, nine coming in the first period and 21 in the first three.

The effort was certainly there on both sides, but their mutual execution as the Pacers stumbled to a 45-43 halftime lead was, well, abominable.

Consider the first 4:16 of the first period. By that time the teams had combined for 11 fast-break attempts, only two of which were successful and both of which were by Indiana. Boston was already 0-for-5 running at that point. However, the Celtics had accumulated seven second-chance points and were still leading by an 11-8 score.

Boston, which never had any continuity in its halfcourt offense for the entire first half, once held an eight-point lead - 25-17 with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter.

But a George McGinnis free throw, a Billy Knight 18-footer and a Johnny Davis spinning, buzzer-beating drive created a 25-22 situation at the period and saved the Pacers from possible quick extinction.

Though the Celtics would lead by five points twice in the second period, the quarter basically belonged to the home team, which executed better and which deserved its halftime margin. No Celtic combination was able to mesh properly on offense, and both Gerry Henderson and McHale had moments which matched their worst of the young season.

The Pacers were making the pretty plays, the picks-and-roll and the inside-out passes. But they had to feel a bit chagrined because had they been a bit more opportunistic they might have had an eight- or 10-point lead instead of the two-point advantage.

One thing was evident from the start, namely, that there would be a few people with hefty rebound totals. Due to the atrocious shooting in the first period (Boston shot 39 percent and the Pacers shot 33), rebounds were available. The players did the requisite amount of banging and smacking, and due to the poor shooting there were a lot of laughable in-close free-for-alls.

Indiana went ahead for the first time in the second period at 32-31 on a pair of Knight free throws, and they took the lead to stay at 36-35 when Orr jumped halfway to Saturn for an offensive rebound and stuck in a pretty followup.


Anonymous said...

umm... i prefer the last year comparison with the 86 champions... sound kinda bad luck ;(

Lex said...

Yeah, it was a tough call.

My material only goes back to the middle of Bird's rookie year.

The part I like is seeing how good they were even in a non-championship season.

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