C's Get Back on Track with W

1981-82 Boston Celtics

By any standards known to man, the Celtics can truly be said to have snapped out of their slumber last night, utilizing a frightful third-quarter blitz to obliterate the Knicks, 131-99, before 15,320 loonies at the Garden last night.

New York's fans - what's left of them after that beauty was beamed back to The Apple and its environs - will long remember the almost pathetic Knick display in the third quarter, when the visitors managed to have two more turnovers (13) than shots attempted and three more turnovers than points scored. That's right, folks. New York scored a paltry 10 points in the third quarter while the rampaging Celtics were helping themselves to 35, helped in no small measure by the 17 points they scored from New York's 13 giveaways.

There had actually been a game for two quarters, and quite a good one, at that. Boston had worked very hard to secure a shaky 70-65 halftime advantage, and although the Celtics had outplayed New York by a small margin in the final six minutes of the half, there certainly was no sign of a blowout anywhere as the third quarter began.

Then it happened. The Celtics played the type of selfless defense of which they are capable, and soon it was lights out for the Knicks. Boston started off with a 12-point run, then 20-4 and, finally, 35-10. New York failed to score a field goal in the final 7:08 of the period, and after three quarters the Celtics led by a 105-75 score.

Though most everyone could claim a share of the credit, the two most conspicuous Celtics were Larry Bird (31 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists and four steals in 31 minutes) and Cedric Maxwell (15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and strong defense), and this duo rightfully shared the nightly MVP award.

The loss dropped the Knicks into sole occupancy of the Atlantic Division cellar with a 19-24 record, and, worse yet, sent them off on a seven-game road jaunt on a somewhat negative note. What the victory did for Boston's sagging spirits will be better surmised this evening, when it plays in Richfield, Ohio, against the Cavaliers.

Bird's clock-beating laner from 13 feet out on the right supplied the perfect punctuation mark to a half of sensational offensive basketball while providing the Celtics with a 70-65 halftime advantage.

The team defenses weren't as bad as the high score indicates - really. Both clubs were wearing their offensive shoes from the start, with Boston jetting off to an amazing beginning by scoring on each of its first 10 possessions and 12 of its first 13. But the Celtics were unable to contain the visitors for long, and after scoring on those 12 possessions the Celtics were only leading by a 24-16 score.

Boston burned the Knicks early on with some sneakaway hoops, while New York answered with some medium-range jumpers by the likes of Mike Newlin, who has regained his starting berth in the aftermath of a 31-point performance against Chicago last Saturday night, and Michael Ray Richardson, who was again a defensive puzzle to the Celtics. The clubs were attacking the boards, as well, and tempers were starting to flare up, as evidenced by a small jam featuring Bill Cartwright and Kevin McHale.

The Celtics led by 10 points twice in the first quarter, at 20-10 and 26-16, but New York, which certainly needed the game (it stared a seven-game road string), came roaring back, outscoring the Celtics by margins of 12-3 (in 2:14) and 21-11 (in 5:59) to earn their first tie at 37 apiece on a Campy Russell jumper with 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. And that's where matters stood after one - the teams deadlocked in Denver-San Antonio fashion at 37-all.

New York led, 41-37, thus capping a run of eight straight that had begun late in the opening period, before Maxwell, a key contributor with 11 second- quarter points, brought the Celts back with a jump hook, a driving three- point play and a free throw. Boston regained the lead at 49-47 on a gorgeous M.L. Carr-Gerry Henderson fast-break collabroation (Carr threw a perfect over-the-shoulder pass from the right), and the home squad was able to boost its margin as high as seven points (64-57) on a Bird runner with 2:07 to play in the fast-paced half.

The clubs really weren't playing poor defense. Had Boston, for example, played as well defensively in either the Seattle or Portland games, the Celtics would not have lost either one. They doubled up well, covered for each other on penetrations, and didn't allow baseline drives. But New York, a great offensive team, managed to score, anyway.

The only negative in the half was the presence of referee Bob Rakel, who has been fouling up games of this magnitude too long. His poor calls drove both Bird and Bill Fitch to frustration, and the official responded in his usual cheap manner by slapping each with technicals.

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