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7.10.2009

Sonics Hand C's Third Home Loss of Year

Celtics Fall to 30-10
1981-82 Boston Celtics

The difference between the Seattle SuperSonics of 1980-81 and the Seattle SuperSonics who are a legitimate contender for the 1982 championship was amply demonstrated to the 48th consecutive Garden sellout crowd last night when Lonnie Shelton and Gus Williams divided 73 points to pace the visitors to an impressive 118-106 triumph over the Celtics .

This All-Star duo destroyed the Celtics , period. Shelton, who was so corpulent on the Fourth of July that walking from his car to a gymnasium was a marathon jaunt, poured in a season-high 37 points on spectacular 17-for-23 shooting. Williams, who sat out the entire '81-82 season in a contract dispute with owner Sam Schulman (a jubilant press-table spectator), had 36 on his usual asortment of unstoppable jumpers and sneakaway layups. Shelton's playing time had been restricted last season by a wrist injury.

There was a very high level NBA confrontation for 32 minutes, or until a Shelton jumper from the left side restored the Seattle lead to 82-81 and launched the visitors on what would be a game-bursting run of 25-8 that would culminate in a technical foul on Bill Fitch with 7:27 remaining in the game. Fred Brown's free throw made it 105-89, and it was strictly garbage time from then on.

Larry Bird finished the game with 25 points and 13 rebounds, but for the first time in eight contests he was merely a very good NBA player and not a demi-god. The Celtics, who shot 41 percent from the floor in the first half, were not good enough in any department to make up for anything less than a superhuman effort by Bird.

Seattle was always in control, faltering in the second half for a brief spell of five minutes in the third quarter, during which time a nine-point lead (76-67) was turned into a one-point deficit at 81-80. But they maintained their composure, hitting the Celtics with six quick points (the aforementioned Shelton jumper, a sensational in-your-face fast break flip by Williams and another Shelton jumper), and the game would never be the same again.

The loss was only Boston's third at home this season.

There wasn't much doubt that the Sonics had properly earned their halftime margin, but there was considerable doubt in the mind of the Boston partisans that it should have been five points (66-61).

That's because referee Barry Rogan angered the Boston contingent with a controversial call at the two-second mark, taking away a tough fast-break runner by Bird and instead calling an offensive foul. So instead of heading into the locker room trailing by two points, the Boston deficit was still five.

The Celtics simply had not been able to defend either Shelton (20 points) or Williams (18) in the opening two quarters, the result being that for the final 18 minutes or so of the half they were placed in a defensive posture. Seattle had taken the first initiative, running off nine unanswered points from a 19-17 lead to take the first of two 11-point first-quarter advantages. The Celtics did catch up, even going ahead at 42-40 on two Cedric Maxwell free throws with 9:13 remaining in the half.

There was a five-minute period of lead-swapping before the Sonics again spurted in front, moving out by seven on two occcasions, at 62-55 and 64-57.

Despite scoring 61 points, the Celtics weren't really that sharp offensively, surviving by free throws and 10 points on second shots. The Sonics had by far the smoother offense of the two.

Shelton, the burly 6-foot-8 forward who will be making his first All-Star appearance on Sunday, was unstoppable with his medium-range jumpers, while Williams got his points on jumpers and some patented sneakaways.

Bird had 17 points to lead the Celtics, despite his return to the ranks of the mortal in regard to his shooting. Tiny Archibald had done some early scoring, but the Celtics were basically finding points from the outside very hard to come by.

Danny Ainge saw some second-quarter time, and he came up with two assists (the first on a crowd-pleasing benhind-the-back pass to Bird on a 2-on-1 fast break) and a nice basket on a running hook. But the Celtics were still searching for some outside shooting as the second half began.

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