Celtics Improve to 17-4
1990-91 Boston Celtics
Remembering the 29-5 Start
Payback or role reversal? Call it what you want. Humiliated in Milwaukee one month ago, the Celtics got even and then some last night.
With a suddenly deadeye Larry Bird (11 for 15) leading the way, the Celtics massacred Milwaukee, 129-111, before the usual SRO crowd at the Garden. You know things are going well when you can get outscored by 16 points in the fourth quarter, at home, and still win by 18.
Bird didn't even play the fourth quarter and still amassed 30 points, his third-highest output of the season -- and only 8 fewer than he had in the three Texas games. He also had 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
He had four 3-pointers, a season high. He had 18 points in the first quarter, making his first seven shots. It was a far cry from the impostor who was 15 for 51 in the Lone Star State.
"I got a little more arc on my shot," explained Bird. "And it's a little better playing in the Garden."
Not so for Milwaukee. The Bucks have lost 11 in a row in this building by an average of 17.5 points. Before the game, coach Del Harris said he felt as good about his team's chances as he has in the 16 years he's been coming to the building in various incarnations. Afterward, he had this reassessment.
"I thought we'd play well. We didn't. We were bad," Harris said. "At least we closed the gap a little where it looked like a semi-respectable game. But the truth was that it was a knockout. They really put it to us."
The Celtics were determined from the outset to deliver a 180 from their Nov. 12 atrocity in Milwaukee. The Bucks won that one, 119-91, a game which remains the Celtics' only legitimate stinker of the season.
"They hammered us pretty good out there," said Kevin McHale, who didn't even play in the second half (though his minutes mysteriously went from 11 to 12). "It was nice to get ourselves established against a team like that. They hurt us pretty bad."
So the Celtics went out and hit 65.1 percent, their second-best shooting night of the season. They trailed only once -- at 8-6 -- and were tied only five times.
They led by 10 after one, by 18 at the half and, after going 16 for 19 in the third quarter, by 34 after three. Through three quarters, they had a 31-11 lead in fast break points.
They held Ricky Pierce, the Bucks' top scorer, without a field goal until the score was 89-65. He ended up with 6 points. They held Alvin Robertson, the league's top thief, without a steal for the first time this season. Jay Humphries, Milwaukee's point guard, had 2 assists. You gotta figure there's trouble somewhere when Frank Kornet outscores Pierce, and Frank Brickowski (17) is your leading scorer. That, too, was a first.
"Everyone was aggressive," said Dee Brown. "We weren't waiting on Larry to shoot or Brian Shaw to drive. We weren't back on our heels."
Instead, they came out and played an almost perfect first half, committing just one turnover against a team which leads the league in steals and is No. 2 in forcing turnovers. They finished with only 7 turnovers, their low this year. Last year their low was 8.
There were two meaningful flash points in the first half. At 20-20, the fifth and final tie, Bird erupted for consecutive 3-pointers, scoring 8 in a row in total, to help Boston to a 34-24 lead after one. Larry was 7 for 8 in the quarter and very few even nicked the iron.
"He only had 5 against us in Milwaukee," Harris said. "And I tried to be as complimentary as possible. You can't trust these guys from Indiana."
Harris hails from Plainfield, Ind.
Milwaukee had one more gasp. It opened the second with 6 straight points, 4 by Fred Roberts. Time out, said Chris Ford. Bird then fed McHale (9 points) for a hoop, and after a Dan Schayes miss, McHale struck again. The hoops triggered a 19-7 run which pushed the lead out to 53-37. Milwaukee never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Robert Parish (19) and Kevin Gamble and Reggie Lewis (18 each) also had a hand in the blowout. Every Celtic played. Every Celtic scored.
Concluded McHale, "The pieces fell into place."