Walton, Celtics Face Off Seven Months before Bill Goes Green

From the Series
What Was Bill Walton Doing in 1984?
December 28, 1984

Boston's frequent flyers did it again last night. They invaded another Western town, shot the pretenders out of the saddle and flew off into the sunset.

Last night's victim was the Walton Gang, a/k/a the Los Angeles Clippers. Playing in the same building where the ancient Celtics regularly beat the Jerry West/Elgin Baylor Lakers, Boston defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 118-103, in front of 15,371 fans, including Jack Nicholson, Mike Warren, Debbie Allen, Rick James, Howie Long, Congressman Ed Markey, and Dancing Barry. So who says everybody is in Dallas?

The Celtics impressed all of the above with a brilliant 9-0 stretch late in the fourth quarter, which transformed a six-point lead into a 110-95 blowout with 3:55 left.

Boston's Sprained Ankle Twins - Dennis Johnson (25 points) and Kevin McHale (27 points) - orchestrated the pivotal surge. It started when Larry Bird (13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists) scored on a great feed from Danny Ainge. DJ (six steals) stripped the ball from Norm Nixon and hit a free throw. Bird rebounded a Derek Smith miss (partially blocked by DJ) and McHale hit a turnaround. Then DJ stole the ball again, and Ainge scored on a break to make it 108-95. After a Clipper timeout, McHale scored two more to make it 110-95. McHale destroyed the Clippers with 18 in the fourth quarter.

"And to think both McHale and DJ had sprained ankles five days ago," sighed Bill Walton (19 points, 12 rebounds). "That's a tribute to a trainer named Ray Melchiorre."

"Kevin McHale found a home down low," said Celtics coach K.C. Jones. "They couldn't handle him. It was a mismatch and we stayed with it. When Walton is guarding Robert Parish, who's going to guard Kevin? We said, 'Let's go in that direction.' "

"They had to take it inside," shrugged Walton. "But I thought Larry was the one who played a great game. Hey, he had 13 across the board. He's the most unselfish player in the league." Informed of Walton's praise, Bird joked, "He's just gettin' to figurin' that out now?"

The victory improved Boston's record to 25-5, pushed the Celtics two games ahead of the Sixers and marked the second time in two nights that Boston snapped a win streak. The Clippers had won five straight home games. Phoenix, a 119-114 Boston victim on Wednesday, had won six in a row at home.

Clipper coach Jim Lynam started Smith, a 6-6 guard, on Bird, with Junior Bridgeman assigned to DJ. Lynam must have seen the Milwaukee-Boston game film. Buck guard Paul Pressey held Bird to one field goal in the second half last week. Bird scored only one field goal in the first quarter last night.

Walton scored eight points, had five rebounds and bothered the Celtics at the defensive end throughout the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Celtics shot 30 percent (7 for 23), committed five turnovers and trailed, 24-21, after one.

Boston awoke, canning 10 of its first 11 shots in the second period. Smith (21 points) kept the heat on at both ends. He gave Bird trouble, and scored from inside and out to keep the Clippers on top. Nixon (22) and Smith fired the Clippers to within six (99-93) with seven minutes left before DJ and McHale took over.

Walton, who knows something about champions, added, "They all look to do it themselves, and yet they all have a lot of confidence in their teammates. It happens to every team that wins a championship. They come back the following year and their play is improved. They move the ball around better."

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