Celtics Fall to 36-14
1981-82 Boston Celtics
The Celtics weren't so much removed from first place as they were bombarded into submission.
So World Free scored 30 points with his usual assortment of Brownsville trash. Big Deal. So Joe Barry Carroll played a solid pivot game with 24 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics could live with that. But now let's talk about the other worldly 29 points of Purvis Short, because if any Golden Stater could claim primary responsibility for the 121-105 triumph that knocked the Celtics out of first place in the Atlantic Division, it was the 6-foot-6 swingman with the ceiling-scraping jump shot.
Short's biggest spurt came in the third quarter, when the Celtics were making a serious victory attempt after being rather badly outplayed in the first half (64-54, Golden State). With the Warriors leading, 69-64, Short tossed in four consecutive bazookas and a banked runner, all of which left the Warriors in possession of an 85-72 lead. The Celtics, who had shown a glimmer of life, now had to start their offensive all over again.
Say this for the defending champs: They had enough spunk to launch a counterattack. Propelled by the triumvurate of Cedric Maxwell (19 points, 9 rebounds), Kevin McHale (15) and Gerry Henderson (16), Boston kept scrapping until a sensational fighting, fourth-effort corner jump hook by Maxwell brought them within three at 102-99 with 5:31 remaining.
What Boston needed at this point was a nice two or three-minute defensive drill, something akin to the stretch that made a game out of the Phoenix affair a week ago. But it was not forthcoming. Robert Parish got cute, trying for a steal in the lane on a pass to sub center Rickey Brown. The gamble failed, leaving Brown with an 8-footer in the lane. It was the game's biggest shot, and he swished it.
Things got worse very quickly when Parish threw the ball away and Free sailed in on the transition for a layup. Now Boston was down seven (106-99) and on its way to an embarrassing 19-6 drubbing en route to the misleading final score.
While Short was successfully auditioning for the lead in "The Chet Walker Story," (Make that "The Chet Walker With Range Story"), Larry Bird was again failing to live up to his reputation as a scorer in front of the Bay Area fans.
Bird, who was 0 for 9 when he last set foot in the Coliseum Arena, shot 4 for 17 this time. "Most of the shots I took, I thought had a chance," Bird explained, "but I couldn't get a bounce. For the most part, my release was sweet."
Golden State jumped into a 4-0 lead on baskets by Free (a jumper that made him a 10,000 career point man) and Short, and the Warriors would never trail in the ballgame. They established superiority in every category from the outset, and the fact that they were doing it without scoring leader Bernard King (groin pull) didn't surprise Bill Fitch in the least.
"What Bernard does is fill the lanes and post up on the left side," Fitch explained. "Sometimes, posting up on us isn't that good an idea. Short hurt us more with his outside shooting."
Short's stat line (12 for 24) belies the psychological damage he inflicted on the Celtics, who were unanimous in their agreement that Free's scoring was incidental to the real issue, which was Short's awesome outside sniping.
"We figured Free would get his 30, and we set our defense for it," said Fitch. "But we would shut off a lot of things and then Short would beat the clock with one of those shots. It's tough to play good defense for 22 or 23 seconds and have that happen."
While Fitch was lavish in his praise of the Warriors, he was very disappointed in the overall play of his club. "The thing that bothers me," Fitch said, "was that we got our butts kicked on the boards and we had so many bad turnovers - what I call no-brainers' - by key people."
The Celtics were hardly aided when Tiny Archibald sprained his right wrist early in the third quarter, but since he wasn't guarding Short, they can't use that as an excuse.