10.11.2008

C's Put Game Away in First Period

Celtics Win Sixth Straight, Move to 7-1
1981-82 Boston Celtics

The box score tells you plenty.

The Celtics scored 36 points in the first period. They had six men in double figures and another one with eight. They shot 44 free throws. So you won't be surprised to hear that they won, 111-97, over an incomplete New Jersey Nets team at Hartford Civic Center before a crowd of 11,753.

The victory was their sixth straight and the fifth by a double-figure margin. Instead of waiting until the fourth period and unleashing a fearsome display of power, might, fast breaking and Larry Bird down the stretch, they came out flying, riding a sensational Bird first period burst to an early 10- point lead (21-11). New Jersey was never really in the game after that.

It was the kind of game where the Big Picture wasn't the story. The Big Picture is well in focus. Boston is going to win 50 games this season by just showing up and giving the ball to its frontcourt. In order to win 60 games - or why not 65? - they'll need support from other areas. They might need, for example, more games like this one from Chris Ford.

Now, Ford had gone scoreless in the previous two games, once again setting the tongues wagging from Eastport to Block Island on the subject of the Celtics' backcourt. Last night Ford hit Boston's first basket (the fourth time in eight games he has done so, trivia freaks).

He also hit five other shots, including a patented take-a-deep-breath-and- re cite-the-pledge-of-allegiance fast-break three-point set shot. When he plays a big part in the Celtics' offense, they are practically unbeatable.

"I was able to get on the board, at least," he said. "But I wasn't worried. After all, I was only 0 for nine."

Another interesting side item was the role played by Tracy Jackson in the fourth period. The Great Guard Audition continues, and last night Jackson begged for the role with a capable nine-minute stint that included two jumpers and a nice fast break assist. He was part of the quintet (along with Tiny Archibald, Rick Robey, Kevin McHale and Cedric Maxwell) that gave the victors the game's biggest margin, a 100-81 spread with 7:18 remaining. That basket, incidentally, was the final Boston hoop of the game. Wasn't it nice of Dr. Naismith to provide for free throws?

Bill Fitch pulled this one out with an eye toward tonight's game in Cleveland, inasmuch as Bird, whose first-period exploits included connecting on his first five shots and scoring 10 points in less than three minutes, received extensive bench duty in the second half. Fitch took him out for a rest with 2:29 left in the third period, and didn't feel it necessary to put him back in until there was 5:01.

"I kept him over there (on the bench)," explained Fitch, "because the best combination we had all night was Robey, McHale and Maxwell. I brought him out for a rest, and then the others started clicking. But he had played three games this week and he appeared to be a bit mentally tired. I'd like to see him go into Cleveland, where he's never had a really big game, and play well. My mother has never seen him carry me the way everybody else around the league has."

Larry opened up this game with a 14-point, seven-rebound first period highligted by the aforementioned scoring burst. At 7-7 he justified the admission price by a) swishing a corner jumper, b) retreating on the subsequent transition to block a Mike O'Koren layup, and c) turning right around and hustling downcourt to take a Maxwell pass for two fast break points.

When this latest mercy killing was over, Bird then unburdened himself on the subject of dynamic New Jersey rookie Buck Williams, who paced the losers with 22 points (10 on the glass) and 13 rebounds.

"Buck is going to be a great player," said Bird. "He's a great leaper and very active on the boards. I learned something from him tonight. You'd box him out and he'd keep fighting. He got some balls I didn't think he could get."

"He says he learned something from me?" inquired a dazzled Williams "You tell Larry I learned something watching him move without the ball, too."

And if the Hartford folk learned anything, it was that the Celtics don't win all their games against the have-nots by scoring a run in the ninth. Sometimes they get six in the top of the first.

Fitch is the Ideal Coach

Cotton Fitzsimmons unburdened himself of the following opinions during his visit. On Bill Fitch: "Bill Fitch is the ideal person to coach the Celtics in the face of the Auerbach mystique. Bill's a driver. He'll never let up on the Celtics. The only time I ever saw him smile on the court was when his team won the championship, and then not until the final horn. He's got a group of talented individuals playing in a totally unselfish manner." On Tiny Archibald: "Larry Bird is, no doubt, a candidate for MVP every day, every season. But I don't think Boston would be nearly as good if it didn't have No. 7. You can't tell me he couldn't score 20 or 25 points a game still, but he's dedicated to his job. It's important to me that Archibald receives credit. Life wouldn't be as easy for them if Tiny didn't play. In return, all they do is prolong his career. He can come down and throw it in to the big guys, and when they drop off him he can pop that little jumper. As long as he avoids the serious injury, he can go forever."

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