7.21.2009

Parish Goes for 29 & 16 in Win

1981-82 Boston Celtics

There was nothing fancy, clever or particularly exciting about this basketball game. It served merely to reaffirm a well-established concept, which is that winning basketball teams start from the inside and work out. Give this game ball to The Chief. A struggling Larry Bird carved out a 26- point, 13-rebound stat line in a
day-at-the-office performance, but this 109-105 road triumph over nemesis Indiana was a monument to Robert Parish, whose game highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds made the difference.

Parish has had big numbers against Indiana before this season, most notably on Dec. when he had a season-high 23 rebounds. But there are stat rebounds and there are macho rebounds. What Robert Parish got last night were the Paul Silas, ain't-nobody-el se-gettin'-this-one rebounds.

Eight of these retrieves came in the third period, when the Celtics were turning a 57-52 halftime deficit into an 81-75 three-quarter advantage, a lead that would twice reach 11, the second such spread being 90-79 with 10:10 left.

"He rebounded," said Bill Fitch, "with authority. He had 16 rebounds, and they were all serious." Bird agreed. "Robert pulled down some awesome defensive rebounds in traffic, and he got one offensive board in traffic and laid it back up over three guys. He's doing a lot of that lately."

Despite Parish's heroics, the Celtics had to sweat profusely in order to nail this one down. For following a time out called by Indiana coach Jack McKinney at the 90-79 juncture, the Pacers came out to put on an offensive clinic for the next nine minutes. The Pacers began by scoring on their next eight consecutive offensive possessions, narrowing the lead to 97-95 in the process. The offensive thrust would last through 13 of 16 possessions, peaking with a three-pointer by Don Buse that created a 107-105 situation with 52 seconds remaining.

Bird, who had found his shooting eye earlier in the quarter after getting off to a 3-for-10 start from the floor, missed a right side jumper with 35 seconds left. But Parish hauled in the rebound of a Louis Orr miss 15 seconds later. The Celtics spread the floor, and it wasn't until there were only five seconds left that someone
got fouled, and that someone turned out to be Bird. Two Bird swishes and a Johnny Davis three-point air ball later, the victory was in the books.

The Pacers had one ready explanation for the result, that being a 45-17 Celtics advantage in free throws attempted, including an amazing 26-2 spread in the second half. "Just check the stats to see how well we played," sighed a despondent McKinney. "They went to the line 26 times, and we went twice."

Fitch, naturally, thought the whole thing made sense. "We are primarily an inside team," he explained, "and they are an outside perimeter team." The Pacers controlled the first half, during which time the Celtics led just once, 8-7, and then for just 19 seconds before the home squad regained the lead on a Davis layup. A mild second quarter run rescued the Celtics from a 42-32 deficit and produced a tie at 46-all. That deadlock lasted 14 seconds, or long enough for Clemon Johnson to connect on a three-point play and send Parish, who had scored 18 points in 13 foul-plagued minutes, back to the pines for the remainder of the half.

The Celtics came out in a grim manner in period three, however, and Parish was the key man, ripping down six defensive rebounds and two offensive retrieves. Tiny Archibald, meanwhile, dropped in four helpful outside shots. Two foul shots by Bird gave Boston the lead, 73-71, and they were never headed again.

A fourth vital contributor was Kevin McHale, who saved his best for the right moments, as he usually does. McHale stuck in jumpers that made it 105-100 (2:28) and 107-102 (1:40), in addition to blocking a Herb Williams shot from behind at 103-98 and rebounding a Buse miss at 102-97.

Most of all, there was Parish. "You know," Fitch revealed, "my weekend highlight at the All-Star Game was the way Robert snapped down that final rebound of the game. That may have been the start of something great, because he snapped down about 10 of those tonight."

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