Celtics Improve to 48-15
1981-82 Boston Celtics
The 11th straight Celtics victory yesterday at the Garden followed the pattern of most recent wins. When the game was on the line, Robert Parish was unstoppable, Larry Bird was unfathomable and the team defense was impenetrable. But there was a different twist for a national television audience and the 15,320 who comprised the Celtics 58th consecutive sellout. The defending NBA champions played half a game that, in fact, was enough to let them coast home, 105-92.
The Celtics failed to score the first seven times they had the ball and trailed, 8-0, before Gerry Henderson rolled in a layup 4:03 into the game. Except for a 34-33 lead at 5:07 of the second quarter, the Celtics trailed throughout the first half, staggering to a 45-41 deficit at halftime. Bird, playing the role of the sixth man, entered the game nine minutes into the first period but meandered through the final 15 minutes with just two shots and one basket.
"I don't know whether both teams were playing poorly in the first half," Celtic coach Bill Fitch said. "No one could put the ball in the hole. Everything was hitting the rim. But I think both teams were playing good defense." Maybe, the crowd was uncharacteristically quiet in the first half as only Parish and Henderson with 17 and 11 points, respectively, contributed on offense.
But the Celtics delivered the message quickly in the third quarter, scoring a cluster of three closeup baskets within 52 seconds, two by Parish and another by Cedric Maxwell. A Henderson 14-footer and a Parish hook on the next two possessions gave Boston a 51-49 lead. Bird finally erupted at the seven-minute mark with the score tied at 59. He hit three quick shots, made a beautiful pass for a Parish stuff, then drove the middle for a layup and came back for a 20-footer. Boston led 71-65 and Suns coach John MacLeod called called a timeout.
A three-pointer by M. L. Carr gave Boston its biggest lead, 74-67, after three quarters; a Bird 20-footer soon made the spread nine and Parish's 10- footer boosted it to 11 with nine minutes to play. When Danny Ainge hit a three-pointer to make it 95-83 with 4:47 left, it was over for the Suns.
The biggest non-box score factor for Boston was the defense grip Carr placed on Dennis Johnson, who was one for 13 until the game's final 30 seconds. Meanwhile, Carr scored 15 points (7 of 13 from the floor) and grabbed five rebounds.
"He looked so comfortable," MacLeod said of Carr. Ainge occasionally replaced Carr at off-guard and played 13 minutes as Henderson's replacement at point guard. He was impressive in his ballhandling and defensive work while limiting himself to three shots, hitting on two of them. "I told Danny that if he wanted to get in his minutes he was going to have to earn them on defense," Fitch said. "He's been doing that and I think we can begin to accentuate the positive now, working on his offense and shooting. Remember, he's just a baby in this league."
The emergence of Carr and development of Ainge increases curiosity on division of playing time among the guards. Tiny Archibald played seven unnoticed minutes in the first half and didn't appear in the second half until 2:08 was left and Boston leading, 97-85. Archibald fed Kevin McHale for a basket and the next time down court Carr put in a high banker to put the game out of sight. Exit Archibald.
"Tiny is still getting back in shape. I put him in near the end and he helped us get two quick baskets," Fitch said, emphasizing the importance of the substitution lest anyone draw certain inferences from the rising prominence of the Carr-Henderson-Ainge trio at guard. On the same theme, Chris Ford played only the final minute and Charles Bradley played a minute at forward.
Boston's versatility was reflected in only nine points by Maxwell in 33 minutes and eight by McHale in 30 minutes of play.
They took only 16 shots between them as the Suns strove, as do all opponents these days, to shut down the Celtics' inside game. But Parish almost toyed with Sun centers Rich Kelley and Alvin Adams, hitting 15 for 27 en route to 33 points, and Bird hit nine of 13, including seven of eight from the outside. "We couldn't do much with Larry," MacLeod sighed. "It's funny, but when we were going bad no matter who you put in there, he would play as badly as the guy he replaced. Now when we are going so well, whomever we put in does as well as the man he replaces."