Celtics Improve to 55-15
1981-82 Boston Celtics
Move over, Russ. 'Scuze me, Cooz. Hey, Heinie, ya mind stepping aside?
The truth be told, the Fitch Gang didn't gently ease the Auerbach Boys out of the record book last night. Rather, the newest in the long line of great Celtics teams sent their spiritual forefathers out onto Causeway street head first, winning their record-breaking 18th consecutive game with a near- frightening display of basketball power, that being a 125-104 dispatch of the Detroit Pistons.
Bill Fitch's SWAT crew didn't allow much drama to unfold. Oh, there was a pleasant first six minutes of competition, during which time the clubs were tied six times and the Pistons actually got to savor the thrill of being ahead on the scoreboard for an aggregate total of 1:29 on the clock. But once the Celtics decided to get serious, the franchise winning-streak record of 17, the Pistons' honor and the pulse rate of the 62d consecutive Garden sellout crowd of 15,320 were all placed in jeopardy, for the club was determined to put on a show.
A run of 16 unanswered points in 3:22 created a 34-16 situation, and from then on it was simply a matter of filling out the stat sheet. It was 66-49 at the half and 103-74 after three periods. The fourth quarter would serve as a decent textbook example of what garbage time is all about, the highlight being a Charles Bradley dunk with 2:02 left that had the Boston bench up doing dance steps that haven't been seen in the Garden since James Brown and the Famous Flames last graced the premises.
What distinguished this game from most others in the awesome - not too strong a word - streak was the brilliant execution of half-court defense. The Celtics are alleged to be at their best in transition, but their basic beauty last night lay in their set-up game. On no other occasion this season has the ballclub functioned as smoothly as during certain stretches of the first half.
The offense was effectively balanced, with set plays augmenting some inspired improvisations, the foremost of these being a Cedric Maxwell-M.L. Carr collaboration in which Carr three times fed the ball into a posting Maxwell and twice received a return inside-out pass before lofting a third pass which Max converted into a basket with a floating no-dribble banker from 12 feet. No Cousy-Heinsohn or Havlicek-Cowens hook-up was ever sweeter.
"We didn't force anything," said Fitch, "and our timing was good. That's the key to a set offense, to go through the options, to have patience and timing. And we were doing this against a good club. Detroit's no hamburger, you know." Indeed, Scotty Robertson's Pistons had arrived in Boston direct from a thrilling triumph over Philadelphia. But on this night they were totally overmatched.
All you need to know about the remarkable Celtic balance is that by the end of the third quarter Boston already had seven men in double figures with totals ranging upward from Tiny Archibald's 10 to the 16 apiece registered by Maxwell and Larry Bird. "We've got so many people playing well," surmised Maxwell, "that right now when you get the ball to certain people in certain spots it's an automatic two." Max in low is one of those people, as is Kevin McHale. Robert Parish posting up is a third.
Bird (7 for 10, 63 percent from the floor since his face injury) anywhere inside Rte. 128 is a fourth. Is winning 18 straight, is breaking a record held by the Old Celtics, important to them? "Yes," submits Maxwell. "It's very important, because it makes us more valid as far as any test of true greatness is concerned. We want to make our own little bit of history."
They might make some more, and soon. "They could have beaten anybody badly tonight," said Robertson. "It just happened to be us. In my opinion, they're the best team in basketball." It's a view not likely to be disputed in Boston this morning.