C's Contain Nellie's 1-4 Motion Offense

Green Moves to 10-2
1981-82 Boston Celtics

The Celtics pummeled the undermanned Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden last night. To you, maybe, that's good news (especially if you had Boston plus the whatever). But when it was over, the Celtics got better news: no practice today or tomorrow. To them, that's not good news. That's we-just-hit-the- lottery news.

"The team," said Bill Fitch after the 112-89 triumph, "is tired. We're also on the lame side. We need a complete rest, physical and mental. Sometimes you just get a feeling, about a substitution or a way of working harder in practice. I have a gut feeling now that a rest is what we need. It's also their reward for hard work. We've won 10 games, haven't we?"

Yes they have. At 10-2 the Celtics are off to a good start in the standings. But they have struggled through the last five games, playing good basketball only in spurts, and benefitting from the schedule, which has really thrown them nice mediocre 2-0 fastballs and few nasty sliders on the fists at 3-and-2.

Last night's game was salvaged for the crowd of 15,320 - the 36th consecutive capacity gathering at the Garden - by some second-half fast breaks and by a third-quarter explosion by Larry Bird, who scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in those 12 minutes. There is no doubt that the athletes owed the paying customer, not to mention their coach, something after participating in a wretched first half almost totally devoid of basketball artistry.

Boston led by 16 (53-37) at the intermission, doing so despite posting a 39 percent shooting percentage. Milwaukee had only shot 35 percent while contributing 13 of its 22 turnovers to the Boston cause.

Had Period II been a film, it would have been confiscated by Garrett Byrne. How bad was it? Horrible isn't even a fair description. Seeing such a disgusting display of basketball in this basketball cathedral was something like watching a Red Brigadier spray paint obscenities on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.

Neither team scored a basket for the first three minutes. Boston went over 10 minutes before anyone other than Gerry Henderson put the ball in the basket without benefit of a free throw.

Milwaukee, finding itself only seven points in arrears (40-33) with 4:26 left, was so stunned it could only manage four points in the remainder of the half. Not to say it was boring, but at least three people went to the box office to inquire about Boston Bolts season tickets.

For the record, there was competition for five minutes. With neither team showing any feeling for an offense to defense transition, the Bucks grabbed a 15-14 lead.

But Chris Ford, co-MVP (along with Cedric Maxwell) for his 14-point effort, drilled in a long second-chance set shot to launch the Celtics on what would prove to be a lurching 17-6 run that included nine free throws. Thus, it was 31-21 Boston at the period.

The Bucks had come here battered, as usual. You all know where Marques Johnson is, and why. Junior Bridgeman is hors de combat with a bad knee. Brian Winters, from whom Don Nelson devoutly needed 20 to 25 minutes, instead played fewer than seven before re-injuring a groin. Judging from past history, this is how Milwaukee functions best, i.e. under duress.

Not this time. The Bucks didn't get a single point on the offensive boards until well into the third quarter. Mickey Johnson did his basic Sidney Wicks imitation, complete with befuddled stare at the coach when yanked from the game. Bob Lanier (bad ankle) didn't have much to give, physically. So scratch the Bucks' inside game.

Without question the one heroic Milwaukee player in this otherwise forgettable journey to the Hub was - are you ready? - Kevin Stacom. Mr. S. was signed by Nellie to replace the injured Mike Evans (shoulder separation) earlier in the day. He hadn't played an NBA game since the final day, B.B. (Before Bird). He had begun the day as a bar owner and had awakened with the intention of doing nothing more with his time than having lunch with his old drinking buddy Nellie and attending the game. Instead, he did a rather amazing thing: he wound up scoring 10 points in an NBA game.

That alone justified opening the doors. Take away a few Bird passes and one rim-bending tomahawk dunk by Charles Bradley and there would have been no other justification for this game. But private citizen to double figures is one helluva story, isn't it?

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