Fast Start Propels C's to Victory

1990-91 Boston Celtics
November 3, 1990

As the night progressed and it became increasingly apparent the Celtics would win and win convincingly, Chris Ford finally sat down. But not for long.

A Robert Parish steal led to a Brian Shaw basket and the Celtics coach was back on his feet, looking like he just made a 30-foot putt to win the Masters.

By then, the lead was 21 points, it would soon be more, and the Celtics opener could be categorized in no other way but as a rousing success.

With Reggie Lewis (32 points), the ageless Parish (23 points, 14 rebounds) and, oh yes, Larry Bird (18 points, 15 assists, 9 rebounds) leading the way, the Celtics looked positively omnipotent in crushing the Cavaliers, 125-101, last night. It was their biggest season-opening triumph since 1980, when they beat the Cavs by 27.

It was pretty much a wire-to-wire whuppin' with only occasional glitches along the way. Six players were in double figures. The offense had 38 assists and the team shot 62 percent.

It also didn't hurt that the Cavs unveiled their stealth defense -- the one you can't see, even on radar -- which resulted in many easy chances for Boston. Coach Lenny Wilkens chided his troops for not picking up the Boston release man. "Fifth-grade basketball," the coach sniffed.

All in all, it was a most auspicious opening for the new brain trust, which featured a motormouth Ford on the sideline constantly egging on his boys and Dave Gavitt taking it all in from his loge seat.

"We played pretty well," said Kevin McHale, who reverted to his Sixth Man role and continued to struggle with his shooting (7 for 18), though he did have five blocked shots. "When you get 38 assists and 54 baskets, that tells you that you're running, making things happen."

It was Boston's fifth straight season-opening victory, all at home. The Cavs are the last visiting team to win an opener in Boston, but that happened in 1978.

Mark Price led Cleveland with 19 points and 11 assists, while Chucky Brown had 18 points. Danny Ferry (2 for 10) had 5 in a forgettable NBA debut. The Celtics' No. 1 pick, Dee Brown, did not score in 22 minutes.

The Celtics showcased their ballyhooed running game in the first quarter, when they really took control of the game. For the final 36 minutes, they protected the lead with the care of a Welsh nanny, never allowing Cleveland to get closer than 6 in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter.

There was enormous anticipation leading up to the game. The ever-forgiving fans turned out for the 454th straight sellout and gave the team a prolonged standing ovation. Shaw drew more than a few boos, something that seemed almost obligatory. He said he wasn't even listening.

It took about six minutes for the Celtics to unleash what turned out to be a devastating 13-0 run. And it featured a little bit of something from everyone.

Lewis (13 for 18) got it going on the break from Bird. It was the second of five fast break hoops and the third of Bird's five assists in the quarter.

Lewis had 5 in the run. Parish, a remarkable 10 for 11 from the field, had 4. McHale and Bird each had 2. When the dust cleared, the Celtics led, 27-13, and the Cavs never got back into it.

"When they get a lead like that at home, they are tough," Price said. "They just never let us back in."

Cleveland, which shot 38 percent in the game, went almost five minutes without a basket. After one, the Celtics led, 33-23, and Cleveland was lucky to be that close.

The Celtics had the perfunctory letdown in the second quarter, allowing their lead to dwindle to 41-38. Then Parish converted a third-chancer into a 3-point play, triggering a 7-2 run. At the half, the lead was what it was after one, 10 points.

There were some wild moments ahead, starting with the first six minutes of the third quarter. The Cavs had 26 points, the Celtics 22. The teams were shooting 67 percent. But Boston closed the quarter with a 7-0 run to build the lead to 15 after three, 94-79.

The fourth was fun. The Celtics had a big 10-0 run to push the lead from 13 to 23, and it was at that point Ford figured it was OK to sit down. Maybe he should sell his seat.

"I think we played hard for 48 minutes," the coach said. "The effort was there. It was a good 48 minutes. I'm pleased. But remember, it's only one of 82."

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