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8.17.2009

1982 ECFs: Celtics 1, Sixers 1

Eastern Conference Finals
1981-82 Boston Celtics


His name is Caldwell Jones and he is the rarest of basketball players - a reluctant shooter. "I don't have to be told to shoot the ball," said the 76ers' Jones, "but I don't look for my shot." The 7-foot Jones didn't have to look for his shots last night; they came looking for him, gaping, open, yawning 16- to 19-footers that he buried four times in the final quarter when the second playoff game with the Celtics was hanging. He buried the shots and the Sixers buried the Celtics, 121-113. "We know he can shoot the ball," said Philly assistant Jack McMahon. "He's an 82-percent shooter from the line."

Jones (22 points, 10 in the last quarter) scored no points and fouled out in less than a quarter in Sunday's wipeout loss to Boston, "but tonight Caldwell knew that he had to be involved in the offense," said Sixers' coach Billy Cunningham. "And the best way to be sure Caldwell is involved is to get him the ball."

Indeed, the Sixers got Jones the ball with a play ("it's a new one that we just put in," said Julius Erving) that totally confused the Celtics in the fourth quarter. The Sixers worked on the play in practice Tuesday and worked it to perfection last night.

For three quarters, the Sixers had run with Boston (as the 90-88 score can attest) but in the fourth quarter the Sixers slowed down, went to their halfcourt offense and burned the Celtics with three variations of one play. "We ran the same play the whole quarter," said McMahon. "We ran it over and over; we must have run it 20 times in the fourth quarter. It wasn't as if we were tricking anybody."

The play called for Erving to set a pick to the right of the foul line, Maurice Cheeks handle the ball to the right of Erving, 25 feet out, and the other guard (either Clint Richardson or Andrew Toney) to cut inside off Erving's pick. First, Richardson burned Gerald Henderson for a layup and two foul shots midway through the quarter and then Caldwell Jones took over.

With the two guards and Erving off to the right, Caldwell Jones and Bobby Jones slid far off to the left side "and the thing is we hit 'em a couple of times with the guard coming off Doc's pick," said McMahon. "Once Clint scored off the pick, they were doubling down inside to help shut off the cutter and then Maurice would get the ball to Doc - you got to worry about Doc with a live ball - or swing it over to the weak side. Half the time we scored down there inside or half the time we swung the ball over to CJ. He was open because the Celtics were in a defense to protect the middle or protect against the Doc."

Open is an understatement. With the Sixers leading, 105-102, with 5:14 left, Jones ("they were worried about Doc and Toney; I was just trying to side out and make them forget about me") buried a 15-footer over Larry Bird and CJ followed that with a gaping 17-footer and then an 18-footer for a 111-106 lead with 4:01 left. The same play, the same result "but the thing you have to remember," said McMahon, "is that set plays only work when you finish them off by hitting your shot."

The Celtics' Robert Parish finally did come out on Jones a minute later but Jones "seized the opportunity to go around him," marveled Erving, "and made a jump hook shot that surprised me. He got bumped a couple of times coming in and, while I've seen him make that shot before, I haven't seen it at that time and that situation."

Jones' jump hook put the Sixers up by five, 113-108, with 2:49 left "and today I felt I earned my paycheck," said Jones. "I wasn't any kind of factor on Sunday in the 12 minutes I played except I was beating up on people."

Jones explained that before Darryl Dawkins (a decent 11 points in 19 minutes last night) got injured in January, "I was a reluctant shooter; I'd only shoot if I was open and I didn't look to create anything myself. Now I'm forced into a situation where I've got to shoot and I guess it was a blessing for me."

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